How should food businesses manage safety now that vaccine mandates have lifted in Victoria?

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Posted By and on 30/06/22 at 3:30 PM

Like other essential industries, food businesses were required to comply with COVD-19 vaccine mandates and other restrictions imposed by state and territory governments on workplaces and businesses. The past two years have been a moving feast of changing government requirements, definitions and pandemic related jargon.

In Victoria, general vaccine mandates have now been lifted and are only in place for a few specific industries such as healthcare, aged care or other frontline workers.

However, ongoing compliance with occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations necessitates careful consideration is given to continuing to assess the health risks associated with COVID-19 in workplaces and in conducting business and ensuring appropriate control measures are implemented to minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable. This assessment should include but is not limited to:

  • Whether to continue or introduce any workplace condition regarding a vaccination policy based on the specific risks in your business,
  • New or changed risks arising from COVID-19 such as customer aggression, high work demand or working in isolation;
  • Vulnerable workers working in your business;
  • Increase in operation after a period of reduced operation;
  • Introduction of workers back to work following a long absence from work or interrupted work activity.

Businesses are required to consult their workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19 including when:

  • Assessing risks to health and safety of workers exposed to COVID-19;
  • Deciding on appropriate control measures to eliminate or minimise the risks (eg vaccine mandate policy);
  • Deciding on adequate facilities for welfare of workers (eg hand washing facilities, physical separation of workers); and
  • Proposing changes to the workplace as a result of COVID-19.

In the event of changes to safety policies, procedures and/or processes, workers must be informed and trained in these developments.

What should food businesses do now?

Given that COVID has occupied the resources of health and safety teams nationally for the past two years, we recommend a fresh examination of business safety hazards and risks as a whole. What has been put on the backburner and what needs to be addressed?!

In terms of new developments in assessing and managing safety risks, we recommend you consider your business’ obligations under the proposed Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Vic). These amendments will require psychological health and safety to be a focus in health and safety compliance in the coming months once the Regulations are finalised.

Look out for our updates on this development and if you have any questions or need and assistance in this space, please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our Workplace Relations & Safety team. We have an experienced Safety team at KHQ who would be happy to have a chat on safety compliance  relevant to your business.

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This article was written by James Allen (Senior Associate), Gina Capasso (Principal Solicitor), and Charles Fisher (Principal Solicitor).

James Allen Senior Associate

James joined KHQ in 2017 and combines his commercial background with his... Read More

KHQ Lawyers - Charles Fisher

Charles Fisher Principal Solicitor

Since completing his Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practice and Bachelor of Arts in 2006, Charles has spent the entirety of his legal career staring at the Food Standards Code (among many other pieces... Read More