A major Australian airline is under fire over the way in which it handled the cleaning work safety of an aircraft returning from a Coronavirus affected country. The outcomes of the incident, which made headlines around Australia, has seen and employee terminated and Safework NSW issuing improvement notices against the airline over concerns that it is not adequately managing workplace health and safety in cleaning activities.
According to news sources, a cleaner was sacked for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and the procedures used in cleaning the aircraft coming from affected countries. The TWU has applied to the Fair Work Commission to reinstate the worker.
The TWU’s Assistant National Secretary Nick McIntosh argued a report showed the cleaner was justified in his criticism of the airline.
Mr McIntosh said, “Improvement notices found cabin cleaners were forced to handle wet tissues, soiled nappies, used passenger facemasks and clean vomit and blood without adequate personal protective equipment.”
“Due to these unsafe systems of work, which also include workers being forced to use one wet cloth to clean multiple tray tables, to clean unknown substances inside the cabin without the use of disinfectant… passengers have also potentially been exposed to the coronavirus.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the airline said it was investigating claims made by the TWU and Safework NSW.
“We are investigating claims made by SafeWork NSW, after an inspector observed one of our aircraft being cleaned in Sydney last week.
We are considering appealing the notice,” the spokesperson told news sources.
“Qantas is not known for being complacent when it comes to safety or the cleanliness of our aircraft.”
Cleaning work safety protection
The incident highlights potential workplace health and safety implications associated with the spread of communicable disease like Coronavirus.
While the circumstances of the incident remain unclear at this stage, the exposure of workers to viruses in the course of their employment is a serious issue, particularly if the risks associated with a virus are not adequately assessed and controlled.