By Catie Norman
After a second lockdown, Melbourne is springing back to life. Cafes, bars, and restaurants are seating customers, we can step inside shops instead of using click-and-collect, and hundreds of thousands of people are returning to work.
There’s excitement in the air and Victorians have every right to celebrate. That we’ve been able to suppress this virus again, through great personal sacrifice, is nothing short of extraordinary.
But as Premier Daniel Andrews reminded us when announcing the easing of restrictions on Monday, October 26, this pandemic isn’t over until there’s a vaccine. Here in the city’s western suburbs, we have a number of high-risk workplaces including meatworks and factories. As we’ve seen in recent months, these settings are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of coronavirus.
That’s why, at the direction of the Chief Health Officer, these industries were forced to reduce the number of staff on site. Any subsequent ramping-up of the workforce will pose significant challenges in infection prevention and control.
Employers are legally obligated to create and enforce a Covid-safe Plan. They will typically include measures such as physical distancing, mandatory mask wearing, hand hygiene, record-keeping, workforce bubbles, and the avoidance of gatherings in indoor spaces.
Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services requires that 25% of staff in high-risk settings are tested each week with the aim of getting 100% of employees screened over a four-week period.
Where employers fail to do this, workers should anonymously notify WorkSafe.
Though there may be pressure to “catch-up” on lost productivity, it’s critical that doesn’t happen at the expense of workplace safety by pushing for unsafe hours or cutting corners.
In the event you’re infected with coronavirus in the course of your employment, you are entitled to lodge a workers compensation claim for lost wages and medical expenses.
If you suffer a permanent impairment as a result of COVID-19, you may also be able to seek an impairment benefit and damages through a common law claim.