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Safety regulator finds FedEx wanting after Covid scare

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A Comcare probe into a FedEx depot reponse to a worker testing positive for Covid-19 has found several shortcomings when dealing with a potential outbreak.

Prompted by a complaint lodged by the Transport Workers’ Union, an investigation at the Sydney site in Matraville revealed multiple breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act, including:

  • Failing to ensure the health and safety of workers by allowing causal contacts of the original case to commence their afternoon shift.
  • Failing to adequately consult with workers about the work health and safety risks posed by the worker testing positive to Covid.

The Comcare report, however, notes that although FedEx dropped the ball on this occasion, it does have adequate systems in place to deal with Covid outbreaks, and no further action will be taken.

TWU NSW state secretary Richard Olsen was disappointed the regulator wasn’t issuing a penalty as a result, and called for FedEx to urgently lift its game.

“It is against the law for a business to recklessly expose their workers to a health and safety risk – and that’s what this investigation has found FedEx management to have done,” Olsen said.

“FedEx management need to issue an apology to the workers whose health and safety they recklessly jeopardised, and give a commitment that this will never happen again.”

The TWU said FedEx management were alerted at around 1:30pm on Monday, August 16 that a worker at their Matravillle site had tested positive for Covid, but despite this allowed a shift change to occur as normal at 2:30pm.

In that shift change, several workers entered the site who were later deemed close contacts and have since been ordered into self-isolation, the union said.

After worker health and safety representatives learned of the situation several hours later, they immediately directed all workers to cease unsafe work under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and contacted the TWU who lodged a complaint with Comcare.

Comcare’s findings come as around 4000 FedEx workers across the country are voting to gain the right to strike, after FedEx tried to force through an agreement with less-than-inflation pay rises, inadequate superannuation increases and no guarantees against outsourcing.

A FedEx spokesperson told Big Rigs that after discovering the outbreak, the company complied with all NSW Health requirements including contact tracing.

“We also completed a deep clean of the facility and equipment. We are taking all necessary precautions and following guidance from government authorities related to the reporting and containment of Covid-19,” they said in a statement.

“Health and Safety are paramount to us at FedEx. Our Health and Safety policies are of the highest standard. We are constantly reviewing our protocols and we make necessary adjustments where needed in order to protect our team members, our customers and our communities.”

The spokesperson also pointed out that the Comcare report indicated  that FedEx has robust processes in place to ensure that risk of Covid-19 infection at the workplace is minimised and team members are consulted.

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