“Surveillance occurring”: Victoria investigating 30 businesses over COVIDSafe breaches

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The Victorian government says it is actively surveilling businesses failing to adhere to social distancing and personal protective equipment rules, under an ongoing WorkSafe “blitz” designed to promote compliance with COVID-19 regulations.

Victoria’s Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said on Thursday there are 30 active workplace investigations underway amid a crackdown on businesses not playing by the rules.

“There’s been some examples of employers not allowing workers to work from home where that’s possible,” Hennessy said.

“There’s been some cases of missing and inadequate personal protective equipment. There’s been examples, and there is surveillance occurring, of failing to maintain appropriate social distancing in some of those workplaces.

“In some circumstances, there’s been inadequate hygiene controls, a lack of health screening, and no procedures to deal with a worker testing positive,” Hennessy continued.

Since July 20, WorkSafe has undertaken 3,302 inquiries and visits to workplaces to check whether businesses are following coronavirus restrictions, resulting in more than 300 “improvement notices” being issued.

Hennessy said compliance with public health orders has improved in recent weeks, but that authorities were shutting down workplaces within 24 hours where serious breaches of COVIDSafe plans had been established.

“Sometimes the risks are less serious … [and] we support employers to try and get proper safe systems of work in place,” Hennessy said.

“There’s been a number of improvement notices that have been issued, and most of those, I’m happy to report, have been complied with.”

Hennessy did not say how many businesses have been prosecuted for not complying with public health orders, noting legal action would take some time, with WorkSafe making prosecution decisions independently from the government.

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