During attacks, several NSW police and other frontline workers have been exposed to bodily fluids. Mandatory disease testing has to be done if anyone attacks the police or other frontline worker under the law passed in the NSW lower house. According to Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott, it is mandatory to follow this testing scheme that will provide peace of mind and can avoid anxiety for affected workers.
Mandatory Disease Testing for Those Who Attack Frontline Workers
Persons who are subject to a Mandatory testing Order have to provide blood samples within two days or face the highest penalty of more than $10,00 if their bodily fluids come into contact with health, administration, or emergency services workers. Because of the person’s purposeful action, the worker may be at risk of facing a blood-borne disease.
After the Legislative Assembly approved the Mandatory Disease Testing Bill 2020, police and all frontline employees are now one step closer to stay protected and supported by the risks of their jobs.
As per the law, if a person bites or exposes police and other frontline workers to the risk of illness/ disease could be subjected to mandatory testing.
David Elliott, Anthony Roberts (Minister for Counter-Terrorism and Corrections), and Mark Speakman (Attorney General) stated that frontline workers’ safety and protection was the NSW Government’s major consideration.
This law will give the power to test a person for the disease if he/she spread the blood-borne virus such as HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C to an on-duty frontline worker through the purposeful attack on another person. A senior officer from their agency will take responsibility and carry out a risk measurement to find out whether the person required to undergo mandatory testing.
As reported by police, in the last financial year (2019-20):
- 1182 near-miss incidents of ‘Exposure/contact with bodily fluid.’
- Almost 90 incidents of ‘Human bites’
- About 45 incidents of ‘Needle Stick Injury’.
Mr. Elliott told, “We want to give as much peace of mind to frontline workers as we can to alleviate the uncertainty they may experience if have been exposed to bodily fluids.”
Further added, “Our Justice and Health ministers have been working hard on the details of this scheme, with the help of strong advocates like the Police Association and the Public Service Association, so I’m happy to say we are delivering.”
Mr. Roberts stated that it may be stressful and hectic to work with inmates without this law because these employees may worry about their health, after attacks they may be exposed to bodily fluids.
Mr. Roberts stated “These incidents can be extremely traumatic and stressful for our officers and their families, and mandatory disease testing will provide support. We will also ensure they receive prompt medical assessment, treatment and counselling.” Mr. Speakman mentioned that a person who denies obeying a mandatory testing order will be committing an offence.
Eliot said, “Unbelievably, some people think it’s okay to expose these officers and workers to blood-borne diseases like HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C by spitting on or biting them while they are simply doing their job. Sadly, the repercussions can be life-changing for those workers affected.”
Speakman said, “We need to provide a real deterrent so people who think it’s okay to attack our frontline workers know they will face the full force of the law. Courts will have the power to impose on those who refuse to undergo a test a maximum of 12 months imprisonment or an $11,000 fine, or both.”
If a victim or the person who denied to give the test or disagrees with the law of the senior officer required to give the plea within 48 hours to the NSW Chief Health Officer who needs to decide within 7 days.
If a victim is under 16, or subject to a guardianship order, a parent, guardian or Local Court should approve the mandatory disease testing order.
Public Service Association of NSW General Secretary Stewart Little said, “Anyone who wants to commit a filthy, cowardly act and spits in the face of an officer deserves to have the full weight of the law thrown at them, including a mandatory blood test.”
This law will be applicable for frontline workers including the NSW Police Force, Youth Justice NSW, Corrective Services NSW, Fire and Rescue NSW, State Emergency Service, NSW Health, NSW Rural Fire Service and St John Ambulance, and the Office of the Sheriff of NSW. The government plans to implement legislation in early 2021.