Victoria’s Department of Health has been charged with dozens of breaches to occupational health and safety for mistakes made in hotel quarantine last year.
WorkSafe has charged the department with 58 breaches to the OHS Act between March and July 2020, when it had oversight of Operation Soteria — Victoria’s first hotel quarantine program.
The allegations included that the department did not appoint people with infection prevention and control expertise to be stationed at the hotels.
WorkSafe also alleges that the department did not provide security guards with face-to-face infection control training by a qualified person before they started work, and initially failed to provide written instruction.
In addition, the department faces charges claiming it did not update written instructions relating to the wearing of masks at several of the hotels.
A WorkSafe statement said the allegations claimed department employees, government 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”.
“The decision to prosecute has been made in accordance with WorkSafe’s general prosecution guidelines, which require WorkSafe to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction and whether bringing a prosecution is in the public interest,” the organisation said.
The maximum penalty for a body corporate for each of the charges is $1.64 million and the matter is listed for a Magistrates’ Court filing hearing on October 22.
WorkSafe’s statement says its investigation took 15 months, a review of tens of thousands of documents, and witness interviews. Parts of the investigation also relied on context and information from last year’s COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry.
“A number of other investigations relating to the control of COVID-19 related risks in workplaces remain ongoing,” WorkSafe said.