Almost 20 Victorians are on WorkCover for either contracting coronavirus or suffering mental illness in the pandemic, with the number expected to rise due to the Cedar Meats outbreak.
The WorkSafe Victoria figures emerged on Tuesday during the inquiry by State Parliament’s public accounts and estimates committee into COVID-19.
WorkSafe chief executive Colin Radford said they have accepted 11 claims for workers who have contracted the disease and eight claims based on other impacts, such as mental injury. They could be receiving weekly payments to cover some of their lost income and reasonable medical expenses.
“If an employee contracts coronavirus in the workplace, that is an injury,” Mr Radford told the inquiry.
In NSW, the numbers are higher.
According to the State Insurance Regulatory Authority , 45 claims have been accepted overall – out of 211 notifications – for workers who have tested positive for, or been exposed to the virus, or who are suffering from a mental illness because of it.
Mr Radford told the inquiry that WorkSafe’s investigation was continuing into Victoria’s most significant outbreak of coronavirus – at Cedar Meats – that has so far been linked to 98 cases. It’s believed WorkCover claims from employees of the Brooklyn abattoir were yet to be counted in the latest statistics.
With the Cedar Meats outbreak and the 12 positive cases forcing the closure of 12 McDonalds restaurants, the number of WorkCover claims will probably rise. Mr Radford was questioned by inquiry deputy chair and Liberal MP Richard Riordan about the time it took for the Department of Health and Human Services to notify WorkSafe that one of its inspectors could have been exposed to COVID-19.
The inspector, who returned a negative test, had gone to the abbatoir on April 23 to investigate an incident in which a worker severed their thumb. Contact tracing began on April 24 after the worker tested positive, but WorkSafe weren’t notified of the potential exposure to its inspector until May 4.
Mr Riordan described 10 days to notify WorkSafe as on the “outer boundary”. Mr Radford said due to the current investigation WorkSafe was undertaking, he was constrained in answering.
“I can’t go into the detail of Cedar Meats because of the investigation,” he said. Employers could be held liable for workers who contract COVID-19.
“When our inspector visited the site on April 23, I’m not aware there had been any notification of any positive test.”
Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said she was “very, very confident” in the processes the government has in place to handle outbreaks.
If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue’s coronavirus mental wellbeing support service on 1800 512 348.
Source: Brisbane Times