Coronavirus: Qantas accused of having staff 'clean blood and vomit without protective gear'

The airline has been issued a warning by authorities.
The airline has been issued a warning by authorities. Photo credit: Getty Images

Qantas has been accused of potentially exposing passengers and staff to coronavirus by Australia's Trade Workers Union (TWU).

On Thursday morning, the airline was issued with an improvement notice following an inspection by SafeWorkNSW.

"One of their inspectors observed aircraft cleaners wiping tray tables with dirty cloths as-well-as handling blood, vomit, soiled nappies and tissues without protective gear," the TWU said.

Qantas is considering appealing the notice, saying in a statement that the airline is "not known for being complacent when it comes to safety or cleanliness".

The investigation claims "workers and other persons may be exposed to a risk of injury or illness from the inadequate system of work used to clean planes that may have transported passengers with an infectious disease".

The inspector reported seeing "workers wiping over multiple tray tables with the same wet cloth with no disinfectant and cleaning unknown liquids on floors and surfaces." 

SafeWorkNSW says cleaners were "required to handle wet and used tissues, used face masks, soiled nappies and the workers advised they occasionally have to clean vomit and blood off surfaces. Personal protective gear was not mandated for the majority of these tasks," the TWU said.

The notice requires Qantas to consult with an expert on hygiene and infection control and consult with aircraft cleaners on implementing a safe system of work as well as providing protective gear to workers.

Qantas said all of its fleet presentation teams are provided with personal protective equipment for cleaning their aircraft and additional equipment is available for more hazardous items such as masks and safety suits.

If the notice isn't appealed, Qantas has until March 30 to comply with SafeWorkNSW's instructions.