Department of Health Program FAQS

  1. Who has a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of an agency worker working in an aged care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Employers have a duty of care to an employee under health and safety law.  In an on-hire arrangement, providers/agencies and hosts (aged care facilities) are both responsible for the health and safety of agency workers under the relevant state/territory occupational/work health and safety Act.  No contract can exclude the host or agency from fulfilling their legal obligations to provide a safe place of work.

Both the agency and host have responsibilities for training, assessing risks and monitoring the workplace. They must also ensure the worker is capable and provided with everything they need to do the job safely, for example, knowledge, qualifications, personal protective equipment.

Further information

For further information on OHS/WHS responsibilities in an on-hire arrangement, refer to WorkSafe Victoria Labour Hire guidance; and

Safe Work Australia Labour Hire Guide.

  1. Where can I find information about managing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in clinical and non-clinical settings?

WorkSafe Victoria has various guidance for preventing and managing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in healthcare.  

  • Prevention and management of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the healthcare and social assistance industry (link here)
  • Managing coronavirus (COVID-19) risks: Healthcare and social assistance industry – Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) (link here)
  • Preventing and managing the increased risk of employee fatigue in healthcare during coronavirus (COVID-19) (link here)
  • Preventing and managing coronavirus (COVID-19) risks for returning, new and redeployed employees in healthcare and social assistance (link here)

  1. Is there a requirement to notify WorkSafe Victoria of a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace?

Yes.  From 28 July 2020 new temporary regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 specify when employers and self-employed persons must notify WorkSafe of a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace. 

Further information

For more information see the guidance Notifiable incidents involving coronavirus (COVID-19).

  1. What PPE should be provided to an agency worker working in an aged care facility in Victoria?

The DHHS Victoria website provides guidance on the use of PPE for health care workers in Victoria.  The standard for PPE in healthcare is regularly reviewed and updated, therefore providers should routinely monitor the DHHS website for updates.

Further information

DHHS Victoria - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers

  1. As a provider/agency, do I need to provide agency workers with Infection Prevention and Control Training prior to placing the worker at an aged care facility?

As an employer, you have duties under the relevant state/territory health and safety Act, which include that you must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees and independent contractors as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.  

The DHHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) Residential Aged Care Facilities Plan for Victoria states that specific training should be arranged for staff if needed, including agency staff. This may include online resources. Services will need to discuss with their agency staff providers their responsibilities to ensure all agency staff are competent in infection control measures

Providers/agencies should identify and provide the necessary training to ensure the worker is competent in infection control measures.

  1. What infection prevention and control training should I ensure the host (facility) provides the worker upon placement at the facility?

As an employer, the host (facility) has duties under the relevant state/territory health and safety Act, which include that they must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees and independent contractors as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.  

The DHHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) Residential Aged Care Facilities Plan for Victoria states that specific training should be arranged for staff if needed, including agency staff. This may include online resources.  Services must ensure agency staff have sufficient time in handover to familiarise themselves with the service’s specific outbreak management and infection control guidelines and measures.  Information sessions should be organised with staff to inform them of these guidelines, other resources, leave policies and to answer any questions.

Providers/agencies should have a system of work in place that identifies the induction and training that will be provided by the facility to the worker upon placement, and determine if it is adequate.  Furthermore, the provider/agency should have a process in place to verify the worker has been provided with an adequate induction and training, in relation to infection prevention and control.  

  1. Are there any resources for online infection prevention and control training that our agency can use to incorporate into our induction/training for agency workers prior to placement in an aged care facility?

Yes.  There are various resources for online infection prevention and control training.  DHHS encourages workers to complete an online training course before attending face to face training.   Online training resources listed on the DHHS Aged Care Sector COVID-19 webpage include:

  • The Commonwealth Department of Health - COVID-19 Infection Control Training

  • Monash Health PPE Training - for Victorian residential aged care workers contains one module for hand hygiene (10 minutes to complete) and one module for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and standard and transmission based precautions (30 minutes to complete)

Further resources

  1. Is there access to free face-to-face infection control training?

Free face-to-face infection control training is available for workers in residential aged care facilities (clinical and non-clinical) in Victoria, delivered by Monash University. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be provided for hands-on practice and the course incorporates a ‘train the trainer’ model. Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF) who want to opt in can complete the booking request form or contact PPE.Project@monash.edu for more information. The RCSA has engaged with Monash University to determine if agency staff have access to the training. Monash University has confirmed the training is being provided directly with the RACF not with external agencies. When a RACF book training, they can include agency staff in the list of participants. Monash University clearly instructs RACFs to cohort their participants to avoid staff mixing from across different sites and facilities in the training.

Monash University has confirmed they are unable to provide the training directly to agencies. Monash University notes the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments are looking at training specifically for broader groups and expect further details soon. Monash University has committed to forwarding the RCSA these details as soon as they become aware. or contact PPE.Project@monash.edu for more information.

  1. Can workers work across multiple sites under the current restrictions in Victoria?

The current DHHS Workplace Directions (No.3) which commenced on 16 August 2020 state that an employer must not require or permit a worker to perform work at more than one Work Premises of the employer. However, this does not apply where it is not practicable* to limit a worker to only one Work Premises. The directions state that where it is not practicable to limit a worker to only one Work Premises, the employer must be able to demonstrate the systems of work which it has put in place to minimise the number of workers working across multiple Work Premises.

* Whilst a healthcare worker is cited as an example, the RCSA sought clarification from the Victorian Government on when it would be acceptable for an agency worker, who may be available to work in an aged care facility with critical workforce shortages, to come from an alternative workplace. This clarification was sought on 8 August, however RCSA has still not received an answer. The RCSA is doing everything it can to obtain clarity from the Chief Health Officer and the Minister, and will inform you of the outcome as soon as it is provided.

It’s important to note that these directions are intended to supplement any obligation an employer may have under the OHS Act and are not intended to derogate from any such obligations.

These directions end at 11:59:00pm on 13 September 2020.