Corona Virus

Published: 27 Feb 2020

The World Health Organisation's International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has now declared the outbreak of 2019-nCoV a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The Union put out the following press release identifying the holes in the biosecurity net in Australian seaports:
Several MP’s, both State and Federal, have come out in support of our position and questioning the Government and Minister Bridget McKenzie, about the Biosecurity protections in place at Australian ports.
There are media clips available on the Unions social media pages.
The South Australia Government has released a Corona Virus Workplace Paper which is useful for members who are concerned about process particularly with foreign vessels visiting South Australian Ports.
Members may have concerns around the possibility of contact with vessels coming from China, that may pose a risk.  Without any pre-inspection from Government agencies, prior to our members starting work, we are guessing.  
In the first instance, members should:

  1. Raise concerns with their HSR, Delegates and committees, formulate a position based on the information available.
  2. Consult management and ask what provisions are in place to ensure workers health and safety is protected. Individual companies must have a plan to deal with any risk to workers health and Safety.
    1. Their risk management strategy may be formulated using advice from the Port Authority and Biosecurity.
  3. If the employer response is simply to provide PPE, request that an inspection by Biosecurity officers be undertaken prior to accessing the vessel and contact the Branch.

The employer has an obligation to provide and maintain a safe working environment.  That means where genuine concerns are raised by HSR’s and workers, they must be investigated
The following are key questions for employers about how the risk might be identified and controlled, by combining up to date information:

  • About the known status of the virus
  • known details about vessels previous ports.
  • potential workers to come in contact with crew who may have been exposed to infection in their last port; and,
  • What the employer intends to do address any risk, using the appropriate control methods?

Members and Branches can also update themselves on the latest information about the Coronavirus on the Health Department website here
View the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019) Workforce Considerations for the South Australian Public Sector document here


Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney