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WorkSafe notification obligations regarding COVID-19

Libby Pallot, Walter MacCallum, Anthony Massaro, Ben Tallboys, Abbey Burns, Caitlin Walsh, Caitlin Meers, Natasha Sim & Morgan Smithe

Information current at date of publication: 4 August 2020
The average reading time for this Alert is 6 minutes.

On 28 July 2020 new regulations were introduced expanding the scope of notifiable incidents under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. The effect of the new Regulations is that employers must notify WorkSafe about confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their workplace.

More specifically, an employer must notify WorkSafe as soon as they become aware that:

  • an employee, contractor, or an employee of a contractor has received a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19; AND
  • that individual has attended the employer’s workplace in the 14 day period prior to the onset of symptoms or the confirmed diagnosis, whichever occurs first.

Self-employed persons are also required to notify WorkSafe under the Regulations.

The maximum fine payable for failure to inform WorkSafe of a COVID-19 diagnosis is $39,652 for individual employers, or $198,264 for a body corporate.

On notifying WorkSafe of an incident, an employer also has an obligation to preserve the incident site until a WorkSafe inspector has visited the site.  However, critically, an employer may disturb the site to make the site safe and ensure the safety of other workers and visitors to the workplace.  Accordingly, an employer can still comply with cleaning and disinfection requirements after becoming aware of a case of COVID-19 in the workplace.

What should employers do?

In practical terms, we recommend that you:

  • direct your employees not to attend the workplace if they have cold- or flu-like symptoms, or if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • direct your employees to notify you if they receive a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19;
  • direct your team leaders and managers to report any confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 to you;
  • for any confirmed diagnosis, establish the date that they first experienced symptoms and the date that they were diagnosed;
  • check your records to establish whether they attended the workplace in the relevant period;
  • document this process;
  • notify WorkSafe; and
  • undertake cleaning and disinfection as appropriate.

Information on how to make reports to WorkSafe can be located here. A copy of the regulations can be found here.

How we can help

If you have any questions about WorkSafe notification obligations, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 or need advice about managing your workforce as you scale your business up or down during the pandemic please contact the Russell Kennedy's Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety team.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with Alerts and Insights from our expert Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety team, you can subscribe to our mailing list here.

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