Victorian law for Health and Safety in the workplace consists of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic), supported by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 (Vic). These laws are reasonably consistent with the National Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation that applies in most other Australian states. The Regulations are reviewed every 10 years and hence the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulations 2007 expired on June 19, 2017. They have been replaced by new OHS Regulations, which aim to support Victoria’s goals to have the safest workplaces in Australia at the lowest average cost to business. Changes will mainly impact workplaces:
- where asbestos is present;
- which manufacture or import hazardous substances or agricultural and veterinary chemicals;
- work in construction; or
- operate a mine or major hazard facility,
In most cases immediate compliance is required.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 places significant obligations on employers and workers to uphold general duties of care with regard to the health and safety of employees and members of the public. The OHS Regulations on the other hand, focus on specific risks and advocate in more detail how employers and employees must meet their obligations under the Act. The specific areas covered by the regulations include:
- manual handling
- prevention of falls from heights
- plant and equipment
- licensing for high risk work
- prevention of slips and trips
- hazardous substances and
According to the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) estimates that the total cost to employers of meeting obligations under the OHS act and regulations is approximately $15 billion in 2017-18. Of this, $12 billion is attributable to the Act and $3 billion to the Regulations. The expiry of Regulations every ten years provides the Government with an opportunity to assess whether each specific regulation is still required and how it can be improved to achieve the desired goals, whilst reducing the cost. The Chamber feels that the government has missed this opportunity in this revision of the Regulations.
The OHS Act and Regulations are supported by Compliance Codes that provide guidance in achieving the required standard of health and safety.
Compliance codes approved in Victoria are listed on WorkSafe Victoria’s website. These Compliance Codes, which align with the regulations, are now under review and eight proposed codes are available for public comment.