A four week safety blitz has been announced by WorkSafe Victoria, targeting Authorised Workplaces including Essential Services and Construction.

As workplace cases in Melbourne increase regulators are on high alert and are targeting the businesses that are open and trading.  Retailers across Greater Melbourne and Shepparton are on notice that they can expect a visit from WorkSafe VIC to check that they are complying with the Public Health Directions and the Duty of Care to assess risk and implement controls to protect staff from risk.

All businesses (and PCBUs) have a Duty of Care to ensure the safety of staff.  This is a positive duty.  This means that businesses can be in breach of the laws and receive penalties (or jail time) for not adequately assessing and responding to risks to the safety of workers.  All businesses are required to understand the risk in the workplace, review current risk settings, review and understand current mitigation strategies, and implement controls and hazard mitigation strategies appropriate to their business.

COVID-19 is a risk to the safety of staff (as well as customers) and must be assessed, reviewed and responded to like any other risk (such as ignition sources in the hazardous zones).

So a business that does not put into place appropriate controls to protect their staff from COVID-19 could face penalties, even if their staff do not get sick (that is what a positive duty means, a breach can occur due to a lack of appropriate system or control, even without a safety incident).

A key part of compliance for businesses is the requirement they have the correct QR sign in procedures for staff and customers.  Businesses must ensure that these systems are being used through positive engagement such as checking in using the QR code app.

Inspectors will be focusing on ensuring businesses have COVID Safety Plans in place, are adhering to check-in processes, and ensuring they are respecting the physical distancing and mask wearing requirements.

Where businesses are found to be non-compliant financial penalties and even business closures can result.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)