St Basil's charged after deadly COVID-19 outbreak

WorkSafe has charged St Basil's Homes For The Aged In Victoria with nine breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act following a deadly COVID-19 outbreak at its Fawkner residential aged care facility in 2020.

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Published: 04 July 2022

WorkSafe alleges that in July 2020, after being notified by a worker that they had tested positive to COVID-19, St Basil's failed to:

  • Require workers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Train workers how to safely don and doff PPE
  • Verify that staff were competent in using PPE
  • Tell staff when PPE should be used
  • Supervise the use of PPE

Ninety-four residents and 94 staff members tested positive for COVID-19, with 45 residents subsequently dying from COVID-19 related complications.

St Basil's has been charged with a single breach of sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act, in that it failed to provide and maintain for its employees, as far as reasonably practicable, a working environment that was safe and without risks to health.

WorkSafe has also charged the aged care provider with two breaches of sections 21(1) and 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act in that it failed to enable workers to perform their work safely and without risks to health by failing to provide necessary information and instruction, and supervision.

The aged care provider has been further charged with three breaches of section 23(1) 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.

St Basil's also faces three charges for breaches of section 26(1) of the OHS Act in that it failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that its workplace and the means of entering and leaving it were safe and without risk to health.

The maximum penalty for a body corporate for each of these offences is a fine of 9000 penalty points ($1.49 million at the time of the alleged offence).

This complex investigation took 23 months to complete and involved reviewing thousands of pages of documents and multiple witness interviews.

A review of the Communicable Diseases Network Australia's National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities in Australia, that included Guidelines on the use of personal protective equipment, that were published in March 2020 and updated in April 2020, provided relevant context and information that informed parts of the investigation.

The decision to prosecute has been made in accordance with WorkSafe's General Prosecution Guidelines, which require WorkSafe to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction and whether bringing a prosecution is in the public interest.

The matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 1 August and WorkSafe will not be providing further comment, as the matter is now before the court.

A number of other investigations relating to the control of COVID-19 related risks in workplaces remain ongoing.