Police and other frontline workers are one step closer to being better protected and supported from the risks of the job after the Legislative Assembly passed the Mandatory Disease Testing Bill 2020.
The scheme will be available to frontline workers including the NSW Police Force, Corrective Services NSW, Youth Justice NSW, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service, State Emergency Service, NSW Health, St John Ambulance and the Office of the Sheriff of NSW.
A person subject to a Mandatory Testing Order will be required to provide a blood sample for testing if their bodily fluid has come into contact with an enforcement, health, or emergency services worker as a result of the person’s deliberate action, and the worker is at risk of contracting a blood-borne disease as a result.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said the mandatory testing scheme would help provide some peace of mind and lessen the anxiety for affected workers.
“Police officers are already required to confront dangerous and violent situations during the course of their shift. So this Government is committed to protecting the health and safety of our officers who give so much to keep our communities safe,” Mr Elliott 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.”
A Mandatory Testing Order will require the subject of the order to provide a blood sample within two days or face a maximum penalty of more than $10,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.
Minister for Counter Terrorism and Corrections Anthony Roberts said these laws will make a significant difference to those on the frontline protecting our community.
“The Bill is designed to support all frontline workers such as police and correctional staff, emergency personnel and health workers,” Mr Roberts said.
“There is no excuse for deliberately exposing a person to disease and this measure will go a long way to help protect the people most likely to face this danger.”
In the last financial year (2019-20) police reported:
- 1182 actual and near miss incidents of ‘Exposure/Contact to bodily fluid’
- 90 actual and near miss incidents of ‘Human bites’
- 45 actual or near miss incidents of ‘Needle Stick Injury’.
NSW Police Force Commissioner Mick Fuller APM said police often suffer a secondary ordeal after being assaulted during the course of their duties.
“Police put their lives on the line to protect us every day, and this Bill will help reduce some of the stress and anxiety they may suffer if exposed to the risk of a blood-borne virus,” Commissioner Fuller said.
Police Association of NSW President Tony King said the new scheme will help eliminate some of the distress these attacks can cause.
“Police officers deserve to be given the peace of mind that the results from mandatory testing will give them, which under this piece of legislation allows for this to occur in quick time. The Police Association has advocated for this law for more than seven years now and we see no reason for it be held up any longer,” Mr King said.
Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin said the Bill was welcomed by the State’s 9,000 staff working in prisons and with offenders in the community.
“Testing in the period shortly after any deliberate act of violence against our staff will ensure that the affected officer has the most up-to-date information about the offender’s virus status and removes any uncertainty,” Mr Severin said.
Public Service Association of NSW General Secretary Stewart Little said new Mandatory Blood Testing for inmates who attack prison officers will discourage the weaponisation of blood in corrections facilities.
"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,” Mr Little said.
The Bill is expected to be considered by Legislative Council in early 2021.