COVID19 controls for sex work safety

Source: Ian Dyball, istockphoto

Thinking about the occupational health and safety (OHS) issues of sex work is fascinating and, to some, titillating. But work is work and the OHS issues are just as real in a room in a brothel as in any other workplace. The workplace hazards presented by COVID19 to the Australian sex industry have been identified and addressed in some excellent OHS advice from Scarlet Alliance.

Sex workers need to screen clients already for visible signs of sexually transmitted diseases so personal questions about health and infections is already part of the customer relations. (There are also requirements for customers to shower or wash prior to services) The questions asked in relation to COVID19 are the same as asked elsewhere:

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Lift us up (safely) where we belong

The safe number of people in an elevator gained the attention of Australia’s Attorney General, Christian Porter. The narrow consideration of the COVID19 risks faced by workers as they return to work was taken to Porter by the head of the Property Council of Australia, Ken Morrison.

According to an article in the Australian Financial Review on May 22 2022, Morrison took up the issue with Safe Work Australia who rebuffed his approach and refused to change the original guidance. He then contacted the Attorney-General’s office who, according to Morrison:

“…. engaged with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer to ensure the health issues were properly understood and then in conjunction with Safe Work Australia ensured that revised guidelines were released which were absolutely safe, but practical, and allowed the return to work that the national cabinet has been encouraging.”

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Is it OK to lie to your employer while working from home?

[Guest Post] By Simon Longstaff (reproduced with permission from Crikey)

Each week, The Ethics Centre’s executive director Dr Simon Longstaff will be answering your ethics questions [in Crikey]. This week:

“ My employer sent me a questionnaire designed to test if my home working environment meets basic standards. If I’d answered truthfully I would have ‘failed’ the test. But what’s the point in telling the truth when I have to work at home in any case? Was it wrong to lie on the form?”

Although this ethical issue seems to fall on you — as the person receiving the survey — it actually starts with your employer’s decision to request this information in the first place.

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Australia government releases its COVID19 Safe Plan template

Australia’s National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) has released what it calls a toolkit for assessing COVID19 risks for businesses that are reopening soon. It is a useful checklist/template that the NCCC anticipates will take around 30 minutes to complete. What legal standing it may have is unclear as OHS in most Australian workplaces is regulated at State and Territory levels, but the Prime Minister says we need COVID Safe Plans and here’s a checklist to support it.

Business owners should understand that any checklist is only ever a tool to aid them to make an informed decision. It is not a compliance tick. Sadly, the COVIDSafe Plan template fails to answer its first question:

“Why is it important to have a COVIDSafe Plan?”

The answer should have been something like

“….all Australian business owners are obliged by law to provide workplace that are free of health and safety risks, including viral infections, like COVID19. This plan will help you fulfill your obligation which will also reduce the transmission of COVID19 and could save lives.”

The legal and moral reason for this checklist should have been upfront to emphasise the primacy of occupational health and safety (OHS) in helping control a public health risk.

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Australian government reopening strategy

On the afternoon of May 8 2020 the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, revealed the decisions of the National Cabinet. This is a national plan developed with the agreement of State Premiers and Chief Ministers who will be largely responsible for how this plan is implemented in their local jurisdictions. Many of the occupational health and safety (OHS) challenges have been anticipated by business owners as discussed in this morning’s blog article but it is worth looking at the infographics of the plan revealed by Morrison and Murphy but also the transcript of the press conference as that provides an important context to what the government expects to happen.

The government released two infographics, one was four pages of the broad plan, the other is that plan split into industry sectors.

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