What are your obligations as an employer amid the Coronavirus outbreak?

5-March-2020 Commercial Disputes By Jamal Bakalian

With our Health Ministers preparing to gather to discuss how Australia will formulate its national response to what is being called the ‘global coronavirus pandemic’, Streeterlaw takes this opportunity to remind you of your obligations under the law around the health and safety of your staff.

Man wearing a mask at work

Section 19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 No 10 (“WHS Act”) imposes a primary duty of care upon a person conducting a business or undertaking such that they must protect the health and safety of their workers.

For the purposes of this informational update, we will assume that ‘you’ are a person conducting a business or undertaking. It is essential that you keep in mind what your obligations are under the law regarding your responsibility to ensure the safety of your staff.

Streeterlaw breaks down some of your obligations below:

Employer WHS Checklist

Section 19(3) of the WHS Act requires you to (among other things):

  • Provide and maintain a work environment without risks to health and safety, and
  • Provide and maintain safe systems of work, and
  • Provide adequate facilities for the welfare at work of workers in carrying out work for the business or undertaking, including ensuring access to those facilities, and
  • Provide any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from their work, and
  • Ensure that the health of workers and the conditions at the workplace are monitored for the purpose of preventing illness or injury of workers arising from the conduct of the business or undertaking.

Contamination

In light of the very real risk of cross-contamination in workplaces (particularly with coronavirus) regulation 71 of the WHS Regulation is especially important for employers to follow.

Regulation 71 requires you to ensure that if your company operates out of a confined space (e.g. an office), you must take steps to purge or ventilate any contaminant in in the atmosphere of the space so far as is reasonably practicable.

Failure to comply with this regulation will attract a maximum penalty of $6,000 for an individual and $30,000 for a body corporate.

As a business owner, do you need to review and update your practices, policies and procedures regarding health and safety in the workplace (for example your policy around sick leave and contamination of other employees)? Streeterlaw would be very pleased to give you advice on your current policies and assist you in making updates that help you comply with the law.

If you are an employer or employee that has been accused of a breach of the WHS laws or are a victim of a WHS breach, contact Streeterlaw today to get advice about your rights.

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