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Victoria’s health department charged over hotel quarantine

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

WorkSafe has alleged the Department of Health breached Occupational Health and Safety laws.

Victoria's Department of Health has been charged with 58 workplace health and safety breaches over the state's first hotel quarantine program.

The Department of Health was responsible for the oversight and coordination of Victoria's first hotel quarantine program, Operation Soteria.

WorkSafe has alleged the Department of Health breached Occupational Health and Safety laws by failing to appoint people with infection prevention and control (IPC) expertise at quarantine hotels.

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It is alleged the department failed to provide security guards with face-to-face infection control training by a person with expertise in IPC before they commenced work, and either failed, or initially failed, to provide written instruction for the use of PPE.

The department allegedly also failed to update written instructions relating to the wearing of masks at several hotels.

"In all charges, WorkSafe alleges that Department of Health employees, Victorian Government Authorised Officers on secondment, or security guards were put at risk of serious illness or death through contracting COVID-19 from an infected returned traveller, another person working in the hotels or from a contaminated surface," a WorkSafe statement read.

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The maximum penalty for each of the charges is $1.64 million.

WorkSafe said the "complex investigation" took 15 months to complete and involved reviewing tens of thousands of documents and multiple witness interviews.

Material from last year's COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry provided relevant context and information that informed parts of the investigation.

Inquiries into other entities associated with the investigation including hotels, security firms and other government departments and agencies have concluded.

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The matter will go before the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on October 22 for a filing hearing.

The charges relate to 17 breaches alleging the department failed to provide and maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to health for its employees.

The other 41 breaches were for allegedly failing to ensure that persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

A number of other investigations relating to the control of COVID-19 risks in workplaces remain ongoing.

Source: 9News

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