Workplace Health and Safety Laws

by Sid Sidhu and Troy Wild,  NRA Legal

A new Bill, introduced to Victorian Parliament earlier this month, proposes to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (‘the Act’) as well as some other legislation, including the Dangerous Goods Act 1985 (Vic). If passed, the new changes may take effect as soon as 1 July 2017.

Increased Penalties

A major change being proposed by the WorkSafe Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 (Vic) (‘the Bill’) is an increase in penalties against employers who fail to notify WorkSafe Victoria of an incident that has occurred in the workplace. The penalties are due to increase from $9,328 to $38,056 against individuals and from $46,638 to $190,284 against a corporation. The same penalties will apply to employers who fail to preserve the site where an incident has occurred.

Enforceable Undertakings

The Bill also proposes a new offence where an employer has given a written undertaking to WorkSafe Victoria to remedy a breach of the Act and later contravenes that undertaking. Individuals may face penalties up to $79,285 and corporations up to $396,425.

Inspection Powers

Under section 100 of the Act, inspectors have the power to require the production of documents located at the place that is in the person’s possession or control. This section will be amended to compel the production of documents located anywhere, thereby broadening their powers. Additionally, this section will be amended to allow an inspector to:

  • Examine documents; and
  • Require a person at the place to answer any questions put by the inspector.

This change will put to an end the argument that inspectors only have the power to require answers that are related to the documents being produced.

Time Limitation

Furthermore, WorkSafe Victoria will have 12 months to commence proceedings for a breach of section 100 from the date they become aware of the commission of the alleged offence. This departs from the current position, where time starts running from when the failure occurred.

As always, the NRA will keep you posted as news in this area. For more information on your workplace health and safety obligations, call the NRA Workplace Relations Hotline on 1800 RETAIL (1800 738 245).