People in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) will be subject to mandatory blood testing if their bodily fluids come into contact with police, emergency, and other frontline workers as a result of their deliberate actions, such as biting, spitting, or attacking.
The bill was introduced by Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott to the state’s Parliament on Nov. 10 and passed in the lower house on Nov. 18.
Elliott said the mandatory testing scheme would help provide some peace of mind and lessen anxiety for affected workers.
The Mandatory Testing Order will be required if the law enforcement, health, or emergency services worker is at risk of contracting a blood-borne disease as a result the person’s deliberate action and the worker did not consent to the contact.
The scheme applies to people who are at least 14 years-of-age. For those under 18, an order will be made by the Children’s Court; and for those who have a mental health or cognitive impairment, an order will be made by the Local Court.
For law enforcement, health, or emergency services workers who fear they made have come into contact with a blood-borne disease, they will have 24 hours (up to 72 hours in some cases) to consult with an experienced blood-borne diseases medical practitioner, and then they will have 5 days to apply for the mandatory testing order.
“In the course of carrying out their duties, these frontline workers can be exposed to bodily fluids of others. Where the exposure to bodily fluids gives rise to the risk of transmission of a blood-borne disease such as HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C, this can be the cause of significant stress and anxiety for the worker and their families,” Elliot told NSW lower house.
A Mandatory Testing Order will require the subject of the order to provide a blood sample without reasonable excuse within two business days or face a maximum penalty of more than $10,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.
In the 2019-2020 financial year NSW 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.”
“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,” Elliot said.
NSW Police Association 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,” King said.
Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin said the bill was welcomed by the state’s 9000 staff working in prisons and with offenders in the community.
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,” Little said.
The bill is expected to be considered by the upper house in early 2021.
AAP contributed to this article.