Heritage Care charged with three health and safety breaches over 2020 Epping Gardens COVID-19 outbreak – maximum fine $1.5M for each offence

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Heritage Care has become the second Victorian aged care provider in as many weeks to face charges over COVID-19 management, with WorkSafe Victoria alleging three breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the July 2020 outbreak at Epping Gardens in Melbourne.

WorkSafe has alleged that in the lead-up to the outbreak on 20 July, which infected 89 residents and 65 staff leaving 34 residents dead, Heritage failed to instruct staff in:

  • The items of personal protective equipment (PPE) required to be worn;
  • The safe donning and doffing of PPE;
  • When PPE should be changed; and
  • The safe disposal of PPE.

“Heritage Care has been charged with a breach of sections 21(1) and 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act, in that it failed to provide such training as necessary to enable its employees to perform their work safely and without risks to health.

“WorkSafe has also charged the aged care provider with a breach of section 23 of the OHS Act in that it failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that persons other than its employees were not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from conduct of its undertaking.

“The aged care provider has been further charged with a breach of section 26 of the OHS Act in that it failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that its workplace was safe and without risk to health,” the watchdog said.

Each charge attracts a maximum fine of 9,000 penalty units, or $1.49 million at the time of the alleged offences. The move to charge Heritage Care follows nine charges being laid against St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Melbourne over its outbreak in August 2020.

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