HR Hot Tip – Face masks and Personal Protective Equipment: as an employer, am I required to provide face masks to employees?

03 June 2021

Welcome to our series of HR interviews with Associate Stephanie Shahine who answers some of the most common questions asked by HR managers regarding employees’ legal entitlements and employers’ Health and Safety requirements, especially as business begins to transition back into the office.

Personal Protective Equiptment

In Victoria, the employer requirements under the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) outlines that employers must always provide and maintain a working environment that is safe for employees and without risks to their health and safety.

In addition to this, Worksafe Australia outlines that an employer must provide their workers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face masks where appropriate in addition to appropriate cleaning, disinfectant and hygiene products. Clear instruction and training should also be provided in the use of any PPE, cleaning, disinfectant, and hygiene products provided.

It is also an employee’s duty to:

  • take reasonable care of their own health and safety in the workplace
  • take reasonable care of the health and safety of others in the workplace
  • cooperate with the employer about any action they take to comply with the OHS Act or the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.

This means that the employee must cooperate with any reasonable policies or direction that you as the employer, have put in place to protect their health, especially as a direct result of state and federal government rules and regulations.

Employers need to familiarise themselves with and understand their legal obligations to avoid any possible claims by employees (both existing and former), as well as prosecution by the Fair Work Ombudsman or Safe Work Australia.

As an employer, it is your obligation to provide a safe and risk-free working environment for all employees, as far as is reasonably practicable, both in the workplace and while they are working from home. Employers should ensure they are adhering to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, to fulfill their obligations.

A HR Legal Audit conducted by Rigby Cooke’s Workplace Relations team can provide the HR function and, in turn, provide employers with comfort in knowing that they are legally compliant, or at least provide advance warning of any potential compliancy issues before they become problematic.

Disclaimer: This publication contains comments of a general nature only and is provided as an information service. It is not intended to be relied upon as, nor is it a substitute for specific professional advice. No responsibility can be accepted by Rigby Cooke Lawyers or the authors for loss occasioned to any person doing anything as a result of any material in this publication.

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