WorkSafe alleges hotel quarantine program breached OHS laws

Victoria’s health department has been charged with 58 breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act over its hotel quarantine program.

The Department of Health was responsible for the oversight and co-ordination of the state’s first hotel quarantine program between March and July 2020.

Following a 15 month investigation, WorkSafe has concluded that the department failed to provide a safe working environment for it employees and failed to ensure that other people weren’t exposed to risks to their health and safety.

Lack of training

It alleges Health failed to station people with infection prevention and control expertise at hotels used for the program, and that the department failed to provide security guards with adequate training on face-to-face infection prevention control and the use of PPE.

It also alleges the department failed to update written instructions relating to mask-wearing at several of the hotels.

“In all charges, WorkSafe alleges that Department of Health employees, Victorian Government Authorised Officers on secondment, or security guards were put at risk of serious illness or death through contracting COVID-19 from an infected returned traveller, another person working in the hotels or from a contaminated surface,” the workplace health and safety regulator said.

Questions over procurement, human rights

It’s the latest blow to the program, which has also been criticised up for sub-par procurement practices and human rights issues.

A Victorian auditor general’s report found government agencies involved in obtaining medical and security services for the state’s COVID-19 hotel quarantine program didn’t fully follow procurement policies.

The state’s ombudsman also raised concerns about human rights issues during the pandemic relating to quarantine, travel restrictions and lockdowns.

The WorkSafe matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Magistrate’s Court on October 22.

The maximum penalty for a body corporate for each of the charges is $1.64 million, meaning the department could potentially face a total maximum penalty of $95 million.

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2 thoughts on “WorkSafe alleges hotel quarantine program breached OHS laws

  1. So now we will have a legal picnic with the tab picked up by Victorian taxpayers. The “”I stand with Dan” conglomerate surely must be asking why they should stand with Dan anymore. We have already paid huge money to lawyers to the commission held previously with none of the staff or Ministers able to recall things; now no money will change hands between departments but those very aligned Labor eagles will make millions defending the government against another government department. Best thing Dan, who said he takes full responsibility, can do now is accept the charges, plead guilty and resign. This will be our cheapest option.
    But why has WORKSAFE not charged anyone with manslaughter? And surely senior people must resign including Brett Sutton and others high up in the Health Department. And remember, too, that Dan’s previous job in government was as Minister for Health. Our state is a shambles on so many front been run into the ground by overspends, over budget, failed contracts. No one takes responsibility and rate payers will never be able to get over this.

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