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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COVID19 and Safety Managers

Several weeks ago, researchers from Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) commenced a survey about safety managers and COVID19. The research was called “Resilience in a COVID19 World” and aimed at

“Exploring health and safety measures taken by and for ‘essential services’ workers throughout Australia’s COVID-19 crisis, and how their contributions affect personal and organisational resilience.”

Some initial results are in a recent outline published by Dr Tristan Casey & Dr Xiaowen Hu through The Culture Effect consultancy. There were four key challenges but also significant positives.

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Trying to make the horse drink

The discussions about occupational health and safety (OHS) and its relevance to COVID19 has finally touched the mainstream media with an article in The Age newspaper on May 7, 2020. The article is largely a reiteration of statements made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Minister for Industrial Relations over the last few days but it is the first time that Safe Work Australia (SWA) has joined in.

The Chair of Safe Work Australia, Diane Smith-Gander has stated that additional regulations may have unintended consequences. She is quoted saying:

“We’ve got to let that system operate,… If we try to over-regulate and over-legislate, we will have unintended consequences for sure.”

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Shop safety protocols do not go far enough

A group of retail associations in Australia has released a very curious COVID-19 Retail Recovery Protocol.

All shops and malls are workplaces and must comply with occupational health and safety (OHS) laws. A small embarrassment in these protocols is that although it acknowledges that further guidance may be available from workplace health and safety authorities, it provides no links to that COVID19 guidance and gets Safe Work Australia’s (SWA) name wrong! It does not inspire confidence and all that was needed was a single hyperlink to the SWA guidance developed specifically for the Retail Industry.

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“a COVID safe workplace” – Mark 2

Less than 12 hours after not mentioning Safe Work Australia’s COVID19 occupational health and safety (OHS) guidance, the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Michaelia Cash, issues a media release, in conjunction with the Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, saying that

“The Safe Work Australia (SWA) website has been transformed into a centralised information hub, which can be easily searched using a handy content filter to find work health and safety guidance relevant to 23 specific industries.”

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