Thinking | 4 August 2020

Employers must immediately report confirmed COVID-19 cases under new OHS Regulations

By Melinda Bell and Rhea Karunakar

New Regulations in Victoria commenced on Tuesday 28 July 2020, requiring all Victorian employers to notify WorkSafe Victoria when they become aware that an employee or independent contractor has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

These Regulations operate in addition to the requirements of stage 4 restrictions, which have been imposed on much of Victoria from 3 August 2020. A broad range of industries and sectors will now be required to close their workplaces or significantly reduce their capacity, but this does not change an employer’s requirement to notify WorkSafe if a confirmed case occurs.

The new Regulations extend the operation of Part 5 of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) by obliging employers and self-employed persons to immediately notify WorkSafe Victoria (WorkSafe) if:

  • an employer becomes aware that an employee or independent contractor engaged by the employer (or any employees of the independent contractor) has received a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and has attended the workplace within the infectious period; or
  • a self-employed person has received a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and has attended the workplace within the infectious period.

The 'infectious period' is the period from 14 days prior to receiving the confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, until clearance from isolation has been received.

A failure to notify WorkSafe will attract a penalty of up to $39,652 for individuals and $198,264 for a body corporate.

Previously, employers were not required to report an infectious disease in the workplace, unless immediate impatient treatment was required or the disease was the cause (or suspected cause) of a death. However, the pandemic situation has warranted timely notification by duty holders to authorities to effectively manage health and safety risks in the workplace. Victoria has now followed several other States and Territories that have introduced mandatory reporting requirements.

The new Regulations are a temporary measure and will cease in 12 months' time, pending review by WorkSafe.

Further information and instructions on when and how to report a COVID-19 case are available on the WorkSafe website.

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