COVID-19 Update – Impact on OFSC Operations

The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve and has significantly impacted the daily life of all Australians. With most building sites across the country continuing to operate, the safety of all workers, as well as their health, remains paramount to the Federal Safety Commissioner (FSC).

Accordingly, FSC David Denney this week introduced temporary changes to the audit processes used by the OFSC in administering the Work Health and Safety Accreditation Scheme (the Scheme). These adjustments have been made to help complement the nation-wide effort to 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:

  • Accreditation audits will be temporarily limited to companies in an active tender process for Commonwealth-funded building work 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.
  • Annual audits for low risk companies and companies in their first year of accreditation will be temporarily postponed. This will be reviewed as advice from Government evolves.
  • Where on-site audits are required, the OFSC will work closely with companies and Federal Safety Officers (FSOs) to minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure or transmission. This will include, for example, 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 during the audit and complying with all company COVID-19 reduction strategies as well as Government health advice.
  • Where on-site audits of any kind cannot be undertaken (e.g. no available intra-state FSO or community lock-down), we’ll work on a case-by-case basis to determine suitable alternative arrangements.

The Commissioner said, ‘this is an appropriate risk-based approach to the current challenging environment. 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 assessing the impacts of COVID-19 on its operations on a daily basis and will provide updates as changes to the way we work are required.