COVID-19 and work health and safety
The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) welcomes the decision of the National Cabinet on Friday 24 April to develop national work health and safety guidance on COVID-19. The guidance will be developed through Safe Work Australia and is intended to support businesses to operate safely within the COVID-19 environment.
National Cabinet also agreed to National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles that will underpin Safe Work Australia’s guidance and provide consistent work health and safety advice that businesses can trust and follow in their operations.
The ten National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles are as follows:
- All workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to a healthy and safe working environment.
- The COVID-19 pandemic requires a uniquely focused approach to work health and safety (WHS) as it applies to businesses, workers and others in the workplace.
- To keep our workplaces healthy and safe, businesses must, in consultation with workers, and their representatives, assess the way they work to identify, understand and quantify risks and to implement and review control measures to address those risks.
- As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually relaxed, businesses, workers and other duty holders must work together to adapt and promote safe work practices, consistent with advice from health authorities, to ensure their workplaces are ready for the social distancing and exemplary hygiene measures that will be an important part of the transition.
- Businesses and workers must actively control against the transmission of COVID-19 while at work, consistent with the latest advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, including considering the application of a hierarchy of appropriate controls where relevant.
- Businesses and workers must prepare for the possibility that there will be cases of COVID-19 in the workplace and be ready to respond immediately, appropriately, effectively and efficiently, and consistent with advice from health authorities.
- Existing state and territory jurisdiction of WHS compliance and enforcement remains critical. While acknowledging individual variations across WHS laws mean approaches in different parts of the country may vary, to ensure business and worker confidence, a commitment to a consistent national approach is key, including a commitment to communicating what constitutes best practice in prevention, mitigation and response to the risks presented by COVID-19.
- Safe Work Australia (SWA), through its tripartite membership, will provide a central hub of WHS guidance and tools that Australian workplaces can use to successfully form the basis of their management of health and safety risks posed by COVID-19.
- States and territories ultimately have the role of providing advice, education, compliance and enforcement of WHS and will leverage the use of the SWA central hub in fulfilling their statutory functions.
- The work of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission will complement the work of SWA, jurisdictions and health authorities to support industries more broadly to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic appropriately, effectively and safely.
COVID-19 workers compensation claims
SIRA will begin consultation this week to develop a new COVID-19 related Standard of Practice that will set expectations for insurers handling of COVID-19 related workers compensation claims. SIRA aims to issue tailored guidance on management of these claims and support for workers through their recovery and return to work.
New SIRA programs supporting workers and employers
SIRA is pleased to announce two new vocational programs intended to support injured road users, workers and employers during the COVID-19 crisis.
The JobCover6 program encourages employers to provide short-term work opportunities to help injured road users and workers who are looking to gain new employment during the COVID-19 crisis.
JobCover6 provides an incentive payment of up to $400 per week (or the wages paid to the worker, whichever is less) to an employer who can provide a worker with a short-term work opportunity. The incentive payments can be paid up to a maximum of 26 weeks ($10 400).
The Connect2work program encourages employers to provide work placements to assist workers who are unable to recover at their pre-injury workplace or are looking to gain new work skills during the COVID-19 crisis.
Connect2Work provides a $200 weekly payment (for up to 12 weeks) to employers who can provide work placement for at least 15 hours per week to a worker.
In addition to these new programs, SIRA has existing programs that can help with retraining, work trials and the provision of equipment if a worker is required to work from home. These programs will assist businesses that may need adjust their approach to managing recovery at, and return to, work at this time.
You can find more information about these programs on the SIRA website.
Service and policy adaptions in place
A number of service and policy adaptions have already commenced. These include:
- amendments to workers compensation and motor accident laws so that treating physiotherapists and psychologists can provide second and subsequent certificates of capacity and certificates of fitness
- the introduction of telehealth services so that consultations between injured people and providers can occur over the telephone
- a new approach to how SIRA Dispute Resolution Service assessments and conferences are conducted.
SIRA remains committed to the delivery of timely and relevant communications so that you can remain informed of changes as we respond to the risks presented by COVID-19.
You can stay up to date by subscribing to our bulletin, following the SIRA's LinkedIn page and visiting the new injured person hub on the SIRA website.
SIRA also has a new Personal Injury COVID-19 LinkedIn group. Join this group to be the first to hear about important updates and insights relevant to the NSW personal injury sector.