WA tribunal backs police face mask edict

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson says unvaccinated police officers will have to wear face masks.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson says unvaccinated police officers will have to wear face masks.

A policy requiring unvaccinated West Australian police officers to wear face masks will go ahead following negotiations before an industrial tribunal.

The edict will come into effect from Monday, affecting any employee who has not received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose.

Police Commissioner Chris Dawson was summoned before WA's Industrial Relations Commission on Friday to face a conference hearing with WA's Civil Service Association.

The state's police union had earlier warned it wouldn't accept its members being discriminated against and questioned whether the force had the legal right to demand officers produce medical certificates to prove exemptions.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Dawson said negotiations had been constructive and it had been agreed that the policy would go ahead.

"Staff that are not vaccinated will have to wear a mask in the workplace unless there is a legitimate reason," he told reporters.

"I've got a duty to provide the best possible protection for my staff in the workplace ... I'm confident that the good relationships and the work that police and staff do, across the state, will continue."

Mr Dawson said individuals who refused to wear masks would be dealt with "on a case-by-case basis".

He said 100 per cent of officers and staff in high-risk frontline roles such as in hotel quarantine had been vaccinated but the rate fell to about 75 per cent for the entire workforce.

"Obviously I'd like to continue to see that improve," he said.

Premier Mark McGowan earlier backed Mr Dawson, who has also played a key role in pandemic decision-making as the state emergency co-ordinator.

Mr McGowan said the situation in NSW, which reported a record 291 new local cases and one new death on Friday, showed the need for tough measures.

"They didn't act early, they didn't do what was required and now look what's happened," he told reporters.

WA recorded no new cases on Friday, having conducted thousands of tests after a fly-in, fly-out mine worker recorded a weak positive result.

The man in his 30s has since tested negative.

He's in isolation but appears increasingly unlikely to have been infectious, having previously had the virus early in the pandemic.

The man worked as a maintenance contractor at Fortescue Metal Group's Cloudbreak mine between July 20 and July 27.

He went on to attend venues in Fremantle, Scarborough, Subiaco, South Perth and Greenwood.

Authorities have identified 11 exposure sites, requiring any attendees to isolate until they return a negative test result.

Of the 1630 close and casual contacts identified, 250 have so far tested negative.

The infected man had been tested in Perth while preparing to fly to another mine site.

He is believed to have contracted the virus at Perth Airport from a Queensland man who flew there on July 20 and was subsequently denied entry to WA. That man tested positive to the Alpha variant of the virus upon returning to Brisbane.

WA Health meanwhile said weak traces of the virus had been detected in wastewater in Broome, in the state's far north.

Mr McGowan said he had been advised it was likely to be the result of a previous case shedding the virus, but urged anyone showing symptoms to get tested.

Australian Associated Press