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Aust Health Rev ; 2021 May 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1211321

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus obligations for health services to protect the health and safety of their staff, arising from Occupational, Health and Safety legislation and the duty of care owed by a health service as an employer. Health workers, by nature of their work, are a particularly at-risk population in the context of COVID-19. This article examines the legal standard of care that healthcare employers owe their staff in terms of reduction of risk exposure, both physically and psychologically, to COVID-19, the obligation to provide staff with personal protective equipment, adequate hygiene, cleaning and the consequences for breaching these standards. This article also explores the right to dismiss employees who are non-compliant with their obligations.What is known about the topic?It is well known that health workers are an at-risk population for COVID-19, particularly those with direct exposure to affected patients. Since early 2020, healthcare services have faced substantial challenges in managing employee risk while complying with Occupational, Health and Safety law in Australia.What does this paper add?This paper explores the standard of care that healthcare services owe their staff in terms of reduction of risk exposure within the current Australian legal framework, as well as the rights and obligations of healthcare service employees.What are the implications for practitioners?Health services should be aware of the range of legal obligations to protect healthcare workers from the consequences of COVID-19 in order to minimise risk as much as reasonably practicable for employees. This includes ensuring access to adequate personal protective equipment, psychological support, adequate hygiene and cleaning of the physical workspace as well as the appropriate reporting of incidents and exposures.

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