COVID-19 updates

Helping small businesses create COVID-safe workplaces
The Morrison Government is supporting multicultural business owners to safely re-open, with fact sheets on running COVID-safe workplaces now available in 63 languages. One-third of Australian small businesses are run by migrants and we want to see their businesses safely re-opening and their staff safely back at work (22 May 2020). More...

Australian workplaces adopt physical distancing but few other Covid-19 safety measures, poll finds
A UComms poll of workers finds the majority of employers have implemented physical distancing practices but further steps to make workplaces safe against Covid-19 such as hygiene measures, pandemic leave and a plan to respond to positive cases are rare (21 May 2020). More...

Safe Work Australia guidance on lifts
The Property Council of Australia has welcomed the updated guidance from SWA on the 'COVIDSafe' use of lifts in office buildings. 'The new guidelines on lift usage are sensible and practical, and give our building owners, managers and their tenants the certainty they need to plan their return to the office in coming weeks (20 May 2020). More...

Face masks, but no social distancing: Are Qantas' coronavirus measures good enough
There are concerns that the raft of coronavirus-era hygiene and safety measures announced by Qantas may not be enough to satisfy travellers and flight staff (20 May 2020). More...

Small businesses urge simple, safe and affordable OH&S rules for 'COVIDSafe' trading
Small business owners risk being non-compliant with coronavirus occupational health and safety (OH&S) regulations unless official advice from state and federal regulators can be simplified, says the peak body representing the sector (19 May 2020). More...

Funding plan to spread infection skills
The Australian, State and Territory Governments have agreed to jointly invest in a new $80 million infection control training fund. Senator Cash said the fund would enable the rollout of new infection control short courses available by 01 July, the first national training product developed by the new Australian Industry Skills Emergency Response Sub-Committee in response to COVID-19 (19 May 2020). More...

ANU study highlights job security and safety anxieties
A recent study has found that two-thirds of Australians are worried about their own and others' safety, and confirmed the toll of COVID-19 on mental health (18 May 2020). More...

NSW watchdog issues zero prohibition notices during inspections
The New South Wales Resources Regulator has found that mine operators responded to the risks of coronavirus quickly and appropriately during inspections (15 May 2020). More...

APSC sets scene for return to offices
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has issued a Circular calling on Agency heads to implement a transition plan to return employees to their usual workplaces in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (14 May 2020). More...

AIS guide to see safe return of sport
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has released its AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment to help Australians safely return to sport during the current pandemic (11 May 2020). More...

OFSC: Supporting the Mental Health of Workers During COVID-19
Managing the mental health of workers is an ongoing challenge and the added pressures of COVID-19 restrictions have the potential to negatively impact the mental health of workers (19 May 2020). More...

OFSC: Special OFSC Industry Reference Group (IRG) meeting – Examples of COVID-19 response actions
The FSC's Industry Reference Group held a special meeting late last month to exchange information and experience in managing COVID-19 in the building and construction industry (13 May 2020). More...

APSC circular 2020/5 preparing for a COVID-safe transition for APS workplaces
The APSC says that in developing their transition plans, Agency heads need to review the balance between working from home and returning to usual workplaces, ensuring the health and wellbeing of their staff along with Agency productivity, and the delivery of essential services. APSC Circular 2020/5 can be accessed at this PS News link (14 May 2020).

Safe Work Australia: Office physical distancing
Page last updated: 21 May 2020
Includes lifts and office 4 square metres of space per person requirements. More...

Safe Work Australia: COVID-19 workplace guidance
The Safe Work Australia website is continually being updated to provide a central hub of work health and safety guidance and tools to help Australian workplaces manage the health and safety risks posed by COVID-19. This week there is new information for: Hairdressers and Barbers and Real estate.
Go to the COVID-19 Information page to check for a number of industries, and also general information (updated 21 May 2020).

Icare workforce sustainability: COVID-19 recovery
A new icare employer toolkit identifies the top three areas employers can focus on to help their employees feel safe in coming back to work: Good leadership; Consistent and clear communication and best practice support. Alongside the employer toolkit, icare has produced a research report on the effects of public health events (epidemics and pandemics) on workforce sustainability (21 May 2020). More...

In the media

Mine safety inquiry probes underground coal mine issues
A mine safety board of inquiry will investigate more than 40 methane gas incidents in Queensland's underground coal mines since mid-2019 (21 May 2020). More...

Parliament supports jail for bosses on mine deaths
Australia's toughest mine safety laws passed in Queensland Parliament with executives facing up to 20 years' jail if Queensland mine and quarry workers die because of their criminal negligence (20 May 2020). More...

Hazelwood Power fined $1.56m after mine fire
The operator of Hazelwood mine, Hazelwood Power Corporation Pty Ltd, was fined a total of $1.56 million for breaches of the OHS Act after a major fire that burned for several weeks in 2014. The company was last November found guilty of 10 charges following an eight-week jury trial in the Supreme Court (19 May 2020). More...

New app allows NSW workers to anonymously report safety issues
A new app launched by SafeWork NSW allows workers to anonymously report workplace health and safety issues by sending photos of unsafe practices on the site directly to SafeWork (18 May 2020). More...

QMI takes control of Grosvenor accident scene
The Queensland Mines Inspectorate (QMI) is progressing an investigation into a gas ignition event that shut down Anglo American's Grosvenor coal mine earlier this month (15 May 2020). More...

AMMA to equip employers with mental health assistance
Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA has launched an online program for psychological health and safety across resources workplaces (11 May 2020). More...

Sentence imposed in case involving tragic nitrous oxide mix-up
Christopher Turner was convicted and fined $100,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 after the death of one baby and serious injury of another at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital in 2016 (11 May 2020). More...

'Unacceptable' coal mine explosion to be investigated by independent board of inquiry
A former judge or Queen's Counsel is to be selected to head up an independent board of inquiry into a Queensland coal mine explosion that critically injured five workers (11 May 2020). More...

Published – articles, papers, reports

Safe Work Australia fatality statistics
As at 7 May, there have been 70 Australian workers killed at work in 2020. The numbers and industries may vary from one report to the next, as Safe Work receives more detailed information (to check for updates and more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage).

In practice and courts


Safework NSW: Traffic control work
Information on the changes to the Work Health and Safety (Traffic Control Training) Regulation was made on 20 December 2019, with the Traffic Control Training scheme transitioning from Transport for NSW to SafeWork NSW. The new regulatory scheme will commence from 1 July 2020. More...


WorkCover Qld: Falls from work platforms
Fall hazards are found in many workplaces where work is carried out at height, for example working on a roof. In managing the risk of falls, the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 requires specific control measures to be implemented, where it is reasonably practicable to do so (21 May 2020). More...

WorkCover Qld: Roof falls
Falls are a major cause of death and serious injury at workplaces. Risk of falling is common for many work activities. The risk of serious injury from a fall depends mainly on the height and surface (15 May 2020). More...

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
From 1 July 2020 in Queensland, the workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica will be halved from a time-weighted average airborne concentration of 0.1 milligram per cubic metre (mg/m3) to 0.05 mg/m3.
You should review current work practices – you may need to improve dust control measures to meet the new standard. Visit our website to find out more and for practical controls for workplaces.


ESV: Type 27 LPG cylinder valve and revision of AS/NZS 5601.1 and AS/NZS 5601.2
Standards Australia has published two public comment drafts relating to AS/NZS 5601.1 and AS/NZS 5601.2. In addition to the references to the new LPG cylinder valve connection, the revision includes the following proposed changes outlined here. The public comment period closes on 16 June 2020. The draft standards can be downloaded and public comment can be submitted via Standards Australia (21 May 2020).

WorkSafe Victoria: Safe selection and use of flexible hose assemblies
Safety Alert 19 May 2020
WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the risks with using unsuitable flexible hose assemblies at dangerous goods facilities following two recent incidents that resulted in loss of containment. More...

Two fatal falls in construction within a seven day period
Safety Alert 12 May 2020
WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the potentially deadly risks associated with working from heights without adequate fall protection, after two construction employees have died in separate incidents. More...

WorkSafe Victoria: Employee crushed by stone slabs in shipping container
Safety Alert 11 May 2020
WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the dangers associated with unloading objects from shipping containers, following a recent incident where an employee was crushed and killed unloading stone slabs. More...

Safety soapbox May 2020
Date Published: 20 May 2020. More...


Safety soapbox May 2020
Date Published: 20 May 2020. More...

Fraser v SafeWork NSW [2020] NSWCATAP 92
APPEAL – access to information – responses to questions in investigation – secrecy provisions – whether disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute contravention of any other Act – balancing of public interests against disclosure and public interests in favour of disclosure – whether failure to exercise jurisdiction – whether administrative review task properly undertaken.

SafeWork NSW v Grasso Consulting Engineers Pty Ltd; SafeWork NSW v Grasso (No 2) [2020] NSWDC 188
SENTENCING – objective seriousness – deterrence - mitigating factors – capacity to pay a fine – costs.

Director of Public Prosecutions v Hazelwood Power Corporation Pty Ltd (Sentence) [2020] VSC 278
CRIMINAL LAW – Sentence – Occupational health and safety offences – Risk to the health and safety of employees and non-employees – Risk arising from mine fire – Whether risk materialized in 2014 Hazelwood mine fire – Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) ss 21 and 23 – DPP v Amcor Packaging Australia Pty Ltd [2005] VSCA 219; (2005) 11 VR 557; Dotmar EPP Pty Ltd v The Queen [2015] VSCA 241; DPP v Frewstal Pty Ltd [2015] VSCA 266; (2015) 47 VR 660; DPP v Vibro-Pile (Aust) Pty Ltd [2016] VSCA 55; (2016) 49 VR 676.

Victorian Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings
Hazelwood Power Corporation Ltd - Melbourne Supreme Court
Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 Section21(1); (2)(c) & 23 Outcome 19 May 2020



Subordinate Legislation as made – 15 May 2020
No 68 Proclamation–Resources Safety and Health Queensland Act 2020 (commencing remaining provisions)
No 69 Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Legislation (Safety and Health) Amendment Regulation 2020
No 70 Explosives Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
The policy objectives of the Regulation are to: Provide short-term relief for fireworks contractors and fireworks operator licence holders affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by deferring licence renewal costs; provide more flexibility for the renewal of shot firer occupational explosives licences.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.