SPC and the Mandating Vaccines for Safety


SPC and the Mandating Vaccines for Safety

imageThe purpose of the WHS Act is to ensure a safe workplace. The Act states:

Part 1, Division 1.2: 3 Object

1.(a)  protecting workers and other persons against harm to their health, safety and welfare through the elimination or minimisation of risks arising from work or from specified types of substances or plant; 


2. In furthering subsection (1) (a), regard must be had to the principle that workers and other persons should be given the highest level of protection against harm to their health, safety and welfare from hazards and risks arising from work or from specified types of substances or plant as is reasonably practicable.

17. Management of risks

A duty imposed on a person to ensure health and safety requires the person—

(a)  to eliminate risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable; and 


(b)  if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety, to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable. 


Subdivision 2.1.2 What is reasonably practicable

(a) the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring; and

(b) the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk;

(c) what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about—

(i)  the hazard or the risk; and 


(ii)  ways of eliminating or minimising the risk; and 


(d) the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and

(e) after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk—the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Division 2.2 Primary Duty of Care

19. Primary Duty of Care

(2) A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.

In the light of COVID 19, how can a Business ‘ensure a safe workplace’ if the benefits of vaccination outweigh the negative trade-offs?

We learned this week through the precedent set in the case of SPC, that mandating vaccines for workers will probably be normalised in Australian workplaces.

The real issue at the heart of this article is NOT the issue of ‘mandate’ but the issue of consultation. The CEO of SPC stated regarding the outcome of the investigation: ‘We’re really pleased. We thought we’d done the right thing’ echoing the moral and ethical obligations placed on employers under the Act. Other workplaces have also mandated vaccines as a term of employment.

At the foundation of the QHS Act and Regulation is a social, moral, ethical and political responsibility on employers to ensure a safe workplace. There is no ambiguity in what this implies for employers, regardless of what an individual may consider their ‘personal liberties’.

Work Health and Safety is always a balancing Act of what is collectively ‘good’ despite what is deemed an individual ‘good’. In this case the idea that individual rights can be claimed against the ‘common good’. What a shame the AIHS BoK on Ethics doesn’t discuss the notion of common good, social contract or collective personhood, not surprisingly leaving the industry in a state of confusion.

Some legal advice can be found here:

Some interesting times ahead.



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