Health and safety watchdog WorkSafe has charged the Victorian Government with 58 breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, after the hotel quarantine fiasco last year that caused the state’s second wave of COVID.

WorkSafe has accused Victoria’s Department of Health of “failing to appoint people with infection prevention and control (IPC) expertise to be stationed at hotels it was utilising for the program”.

“The department failed to provide security guards with face-to-face infection prevention control training by a person with expertise in IPC prior to them commencing work, and either failed, or initially failed, to provide written instruction for the use of PPE,” WorkSafe alleged in a statement.

“WorkSafe further alleges the department failed to update written instructions relating to the wearing of masks at several of the hotels.

“In all charges, WorkSafe alleges that Department of Health employees, Victorian Government Authorised Officers on secondment, or security guards were put at risk of serious illness or death through contracting COVID-19 from an infected returned traveller, another person working in the hotels or from a contaminated surface,” the organisation said.

There are 58 charges in total, and the investigation took 15 months, involving the reviewing of tens of thousands of documents, as well as multiple witness interviews.

According to WorkSafe, the maximum penalty for a body corporate for each of these charges is $1.64 million.

To give you a recap, the hotel quarantine program between March and July 2020 was a mess, and saw COVID outbreaks at Melbourne’s Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza Hotel (where returned travellers were quarantining). These outbreaks led to most of Victoria’s second wave of COVID cases, including 801 deaths, according to News.com.au.

The hotel quarantine program cost $195 million, which sparked an inquiry where judge Jennifer Coate said that no one took responsibility for the fact that the program used private security guards instead of personnel that were specifically trained for this situation.

Last year, a whistleblower claimed that security staff were only given “five minutes” of hygiene training, and were given a single mask and pair of gloves to last the whole shift.

According to a report by the Herald Sun, not only were there claims that hotel security staff didn’t follow basic COVID hygiene protocols — apparently they also hooked up with quarantining travellers. Sigh.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Sky News at the time in relation to the alleged breaches: “We would encourage the Victoria authorities to throw the book at them, either individuals or, if there’s any systemic inappropriate action, at those that are responsible for it.”

Well, it looks like that’s exactly what’s happened, though no individuals have been charged.