OFSC amends operations in light of COVID-19

Wednesday, 01 April, 2020

OFSC amends operations in light of COVID-19

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly impacted the daily life of all Australians. With most building sites across the country continuing to operate, the Federal Safety Commissioner (FSC), David Denney, has affirmed that the safety of all workers, as well as their health, remains paramount. The FSC has introduced temporary changes to the audit processes used by the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC) in administering the Work Health and Safety Accreditation Scheme (the Scheme). The changes have been made to help combat COVID-19 while continuing the essential work of the Scheme, which aims to ensure that building and construction workers get home safely every day.

The changes will limit non-essential travel and interactions with multiple groups of people in line with recent announcements from the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders. The changes include temporarily limiting accreditation audits to companies in an active tender process for Commonwealth- or state-funded building work that includes a component of Commonwealth funding above the Scheme application thresholds. Desktop audits will be offered to companies seeking accreditation that are not in an active tender process for Commonwealth-funded work, but completion of the accreditation process will require an on-site audit once the COVID-19 situation eases.

Another change implemented by the OFSC includes the postponement of annual audits for low-risk companies and companies in their first year of accreditation. This will be reviewed as advice from government evolves. The OFSC will also be working closely with companies and federal safety officers (FSOs) for on-site audits, to minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure or transmission. This will include using a local FSO to undertake the audit, observing social distancing throughout the audit, using technology to minimise the number of additional people required on-site, and complying with all company COVID-19 reduction strategies and government health advice.

Where on-site audits cannot be undertaken (eg, no available intra-state FSO or community lock-down), the OFSC will work on a case-by-case basis to determine suitable alternative arrangements. “This is an appropriate risk-based approach to the current challenging environment,” Denney said. “It balances the need to limit social engagement while at the same time continuing the Scheme’s focus on the safety of everyone on and around building sites through continued compliance with the requirements of the Scheme.” The OFSC is continually assessing the impacts of COVID-19 on its operations and will provide updates as changes to the way it works are required.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Gecko Studio

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