WH&S and Worker’s Compensation claims arising from COVID-19

Under WH&S legislation, every PCBU has a primary duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of their workers is not put at risk from the conduct of the business or undertaking.

This duty also applies to others in their workplace, like clients, visitors, customers and volunteers.

This responsibility includes ensuring that you have:

  • a safe work environment
  • policies and procedures and safe work practices in place
  • a work environment and work culture free of discrimination, harassment and bullying
  • adequate facilities and training to support the welfare of workers
  • safe plant and structures.

All members should ensure that they provide all workers with:

  • an induction into the business
  • sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure that they are competent to work safely
  • do not give workers tasks unless they have the necessary skills
  • any necessary PPE
  • current health and safety policies and procedures; taking new workers through your procedures is a great way to convey safety standards and expectations.

These fundamental duties do not change during the current crisis, but may require new policies and procedures to ensure compliance, as far as is reasonably practicable, with recommendations around hygiene and social distancing. This may be more difficult for some businesses and industry sectors, and Safe Work Australia have produced some comprehensive guides and recommendations both generally, and for specific industries. As a minimum, all employers should do the following at their workplace, where possible:

  • allow workers to work from home, where possible
  • ensure physical distancing by keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres between people
  • encourage all workers to frequently wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and to practise good hygiene
  • be aware of how to spot COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath) and make sure workers do not come to work if they are unwell
  • make sure your workplace is regularly cleaned and disinfected
  • have signs and posters around the workplace to remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread.

If an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, you should ensure appropriate self-isolation measures and cleaning of all areas.

If the illness can be shown to have been contracted either arising from or in the course of employment, for example by contact with a customer, then a worker’s compensation claim may be made by the employee. If a claim is made, make contact with your claims agent or insurer and provide all requested information or documents to allow them to determine the claim.

Serious injuries or illnesses, including one requiring treatment as in in-patient in hospital for any duration, may also need to be notified to the relevant regulator.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact the WR team on (08) 8291 2000.

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