Up to date: Thursday 5pm 26 March 2020
Communications from COVID Command Centre
The Department and the union are investing significant resources to try and keep COVID-19 exposure in our workplaces as minimal as possible through the establishment of a COVID Command Centre. This Command Centre is providing daily updates and progressively issuing instructions and specific procedures to assist in resolving incidents.
The PSA is also asking for all Coronavirus Command communications to be put on the intranet page to ensure staff are aware of measures being taken. The PSA is also being updated by daily teleconference call on status of COVID-19 across YJ by the Duty Commander.
Advice on testing: good news
We are yet to see the official advice on the Health Department website. However, the National Cabinet last week provided amended advice that priority testing for COVID-19 has been extended to people involved in high risk communities – this includes corrections and youth justice – who suffer respiratory symptoms.
This is good news for all Corrective Services and Youth Justice staff. Rather than being forced to go into a number of rounds of 14-day self-isolation as workers get exposed to more and more people with confirmed COVID-19, they will now be able to access the swab test and get results within days – current testing speed is within days but expected to become faster – reducing unnecessary leave and reducing pressure on our workmates who will have to fill the void in testing times.
There is agreement with the Department that all movements will be logged to enable better contact tracing in the event of infection within the system. Whilst this is extra work, the importance of this task is essential in the case of infection, and further isolation to prevent COVID-19 disbursement.
Frequently asked questions: social distancing
Corrective Services and Youth Justice are currently exempted from the social distancing requirements under NSW Health Orders. However, under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Department is required to eliminate and then minimise risks to workers’ health and safety. We are all, however, aware the Youth Justice environment is a high-risk environment for this contagious pandemic influenza, and that staff pose one of the more significant risks of bringing the virus into workplaces. Social distancing may be a key strategy to maintain worker safety and to maintain business continuity in the case of an infection in the custodial environment.
Therefore, we are recommending the following in line with federal and state health recommendations whilst trying to maintain four-square-metre spaces where possible:
- All security procedures should be followed as a priority in safety over infection measures due to the larger risk involved with detainees in custody.
- If required to undertake security measures that put you at risk of infection, appropriate PPE should be provided.
- Review local procedures to avoid unnecessary exposure where possible, including through amendment of risks no longer necessary in consultation with your management.
- That all non-essential meetings utilise social distancing or digital communication to avoid risk of infection.
- If you are suffering respiratory symptoms- do not go to work!
- For community staff look at creating teams of staff and not having them not physically in the same space or utilise working from home arrangements.
- Regularly undertake hygiene measures such as cleaning hands.
- All workplaces should be increasing their cleaning regime.
Frequently asked questions: workers’ compensation and COVID-19
The union and the Department have worked on mechanisms to get special leave for all workers affected by COVID-19 under the Premier’s Circular 2020-01. This support with your Medicare system, which unions also fought for and won, should provide most workers with their immediate health and income needs. There are however, concerns for PSA members if they do get infected, that the recovery time for COVID-19 can be longer for some people than just a few weeks.
Doctors have been reporting cases overseas state that a small number of patients have experienced lung scaring and delayed recovery. There is no uniform answer for whether workers’ compensation will cover workers in every situation. There is a legal requirement for liability to be accepted under Workers’ Compensation Act 1987, that a causal nexus must exist between work and the injury/illness, and for diseases liability that the illness was acquired in the course of work and work was the main contributing factor.
Therefore, by maintaining a movement log (as above), this may assist members undertake contact tracing as required from NSW Health and may have the advantage of assisting to prove workers compensation liability in the circumstance when other leave is exhausted and a member needs the assistance.
You PSA contact on the seven-day YJ Command Centre is: