WorkSafe inspectors have issued hospitals in Victoria with five notices for non-compliance with the Covid-19 plan after doing 22 workplace visits and 244 compliance checks since 20 July.
Inspectors have also conducted 429 checks on residential aged care services since the same date, including nine workplace visits that resulted in “less than five” notices being issued for coronavirus plan non-compliance. The state government would not give Guardian Australia an exact figure on the number of notices, saying it risked the privacy of those facilities.
The notices follow infections in or furloughing of thousands of health workers in the hospital and aged care sectors throughout Victoria’s second wave of the virus, placing pressure on resources, which sometimes resulted neglect and inadequate care in aged care homes. WorkSafe refused to provide data about what non-compliance issues were identified in hospitals or residential care homes.
But generally, across all workplaces, notices were issued for workers not working from home where possible, missing or inadequate personal protective equipment, failing to maintain appropriate social distancing, inadequate hygiene controls, lack of health screening, and not having procedures to deal with a worker testing positive.
Checks on workplaces took the form of workplace visits or requests for proof and documentation, for example of stocks of personal protective equipment. Sometimes inspectors video-called workplaces or asked for photo proof. But there has been little transparency from the state government around which workplaces had been found to be non-compliant or the reasons notices were issued. The hospital data provided did not include psychiatric hospitals.
The data provided to Guardian Australia shows that since the pandemic began, WorkSafe inspectors have conducted 11,151 visits and inquiries across the state, which included 5,459 workplace visits, resulting in 210 notices being issued relating to coronavirus safety plan non-compliance.
Since 20 July, during Victoria’s second wave, WorkSafe inspectors have issued 83 non-compliance notices across all workplaces.
Notices are either in the form of an “improvement notice”, where written instructions are given about what needs to be fixed, or a “prohibition notice”, which tells employers what needs to be fixed before work activities can resume. WorkSafe did not provide a breakdown of the number of prohibition versus improvement notices issued.
The Victorian government has issued data almost daily on individuals being fined, including examples of what the fines were for – such as not wearing a mask or leaving home after curfew – but little information has been provided about workplace non-compliance despite workplaces being a significant driver of second-wave spread.
The data obtained by Guardian Australia also reveals which workplaces have been targeted by inspectors since the end of July. High-risk industries identified and targeted by inspectors include aged care, construction, correctional and detention facilities, education, food distribution and manufacturing centres, and health and care services.
While WorkSafe manages occupational health and safety compliance in Victoria’s aged care workplaces, the federal Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is responsible for the regulation of providers. Guardian Australia on Monday revealed 20 Victorian aged care providers had been found by the commission to be non-compliant with standards under the Aged Care Act since July. The commission issued the homes with notices to agree, which set out actions to improve their standards.
Source: The Guardian