NSW’s safety watchdog has said Qantas’ cleaning standards are so poor they could put passengers at risk of coronavirus.
The extraordinary findings, seen by the SMH, came after a recent inspection noted how cleaners were wiping tray tables without disinfectant and performing tasks such as handling soiled nappies and dirty tissues without wearing “protective equipment” for “the majority of these tasks”.
SafeWork NSW has issued Qantas with an “improvement notice” and ordered the airline to develop a new system specifically to deal with COVID-19.
Qantas strongly rebutted the findings, saying in a statement, “All of our Fleet Presentation teams are provided with personal protective equipment for cleaning the aircraft and for more hazardous items, we have additional equipment such as masks and safety suits.”
The company added it was considering appealing the notice.
According to the newspaper’s investigation, SafeWork NSW issued the notice on 26 February after an inspector found that workers and passengers could be at risk due to its “inadequate system of work used to clean planes that may have transported passengers with an infectious disease”.
The safety notice apparently stated that the inspector watched on as cleaners wiped over plane tray tables with the same cloth without disinfectant, and cleaned “unknown liquids” on surfaces.
The inspector also saw cleaners handling used tissues, used face masks and soiled nappies.
Workers told the safety watchdog they occasionally had to clean up blood and vomit, too.
A Qantas spokesperson told Australian Aviation, “We are investigating claims made by SafeWork NSW, after an inspector observed one of our aircraft being cleaned in Sydney last week. We are considering appealing the notice.
“Our aircraft are thoroughly cleaned after each international flight.”
The findings come on the same day 9 News reported that a Qantas worker was stood down for raising concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
Qantas responded in a statement to the broadcaster, “A TWU delegate was stood down pending an investigation after incorrectly telling employees it was not safe to work on aircraft arriving from China.
“This is against the advice of health authorities and despite additional safety equipment being provided to employees.”