Companies under scrutiny over possible COVID breaches

Dozens of companies in Victoria are being probed and could face prosecution over potential COVID-19 safety breaches. Warner Brothers and Bertocchi Smallgoods are among dozens of companies being investigated by the workplace watchdog over ­potential COVID-19 breaches.

WorkSafe Victoria chief Colin Radford revealed the companies under investigation, which could lead to prosecution, in a written response to the parliamentary Public Accounts and Estimates Committee. There are 23 investigations underway related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The investigation into Melbourne abattoir Cedar Meats, which was at the centre of a cluster of 111 COVID-19 cases, has concluded with no charges or prosecution recommended.

An investigation into Victoria’s failed initial hotel quarantine program remains active. It includes hotel operators, security companies, contractors and suppliers, and the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.

Opposition workplace safety spokesman Nick Wakeling said the delay in finalising the quarantine investigation was concerning.

“It’s unacceptable that WorkSafe hasn’t acted decisively to take action against the Andrews government,” he said. “It’s had six months and the indirect assistance of a board of inquiry, which has been set up, conducted hearings, reviewed 70,000 documents, and handed down two reports within the same time frame. If hotel quarantine was managed by a private company, its management would already be subject to a WorkSafe prosecution.

“Justice must be done. The Andrews Labor government owes it to the 801 dead, their families, the 200,000 jobless, and all Victorians who have suffered as a result of their disastrous second wave.”

A WorkSafe spokesman rejected any suggestion of a delay.

“These investigations are progressing within normal time frames, noting it is common for complex investigations to take between 12 months and two years to complete,” he said.

Victorian legislation requires prosecutions for occupational health and safety breaches to be brought within two years except in circumstances of workplace manslaughter, which carries no statutory limit.

After an investigation an enforcement group made up of lawyers and law enforcement officers makes recommendations. Advice may also be sought from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Source: Herald Sun

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