Workplace Directions

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Regulations) came into effect on 18 June 2017, replacing the previous (2007) version. The Regulations – which have been updated and streamlined to better reflect changing work practices – are a key component of Victoria’s occupational health and safety framework, which is intended to ensure (so far as reasonably practicable), the health and safety of employees, contractors and other persons who could be adversely impacted by activities undertaken in workplaces.

Purpose of the Regulations

The key objective of the revised Regulations is to boost the effectiveness of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) as part of occupational health and safety regulation. The Regulations therefore focus on:

  • workplaces and hazards, activities and things at workplaces
  • management of asbestos-containing materials, and asbestos removal
  • safe operation of major hazard facilities and mines
  • training requirements for certain persons working in construction
  • licensing requirements for certain persons working in high risk work
  • resolution of health and safety issues
  • information to be included in entry permits issued to representatives of registered employee organisations (unions).

The Regulations prescribe processes required to be followed in the management of specified hazards or risks, along with occupational health and safety generally. In some cases, duty holders are compelled to maintain records of the measures taken to ensure compliance.

What has changed?

Broadly, the 2017 version of the Regulations is not too dissimilar to the 2007 version. However, organisations operating within the construction industry, or where asbestos is present, and organisations that operate a major hazard facility or mine should become familiar with the changes. Other changes of note include record keeping requirements and notification of certain matters.

Compliance Codes that will align with the Regulations are currently under review.

What you should do

Employers and occupiers of workplaces in Victoria have an obligation to ensure health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable. Similar obligations exist in other Australian states and territories (except Western Australia) under unified work, health and safety legislation. The main focus of occupational health and safety law is to prevent workplace injury and disease, and these Regulations address a range of workplace hazards and risks.

Critical to the management of workplace hazards and risks is ensuring that your occupational health and safety management system, work practices, policies and procedures accommodate the changes or otherwise incorporate the Regulations where applicable to your business. This is because the Regulations enable, for instance, WorkSafe inspectors and unions to ascertain whether a duty holder has complied with its obligations to ensure health and safety.

We recommend that employers and occupiers of Victorian workplaces should:

  1. Review their safety management system, work practices, policies and procedures to ensure that:
    1. hazards or risks are identified
    2. identified hazards or risks are managed or controlled, so far as is reasonably practicable, and occur in accordance with applicable regulations
    3. licences held by employees meet all applicable requirements for the work they are undertaking
    4. record keeping obligations are complied with
    5. obligations to notify incidents or ‘near misses’, or provide information to third parties such as emergency services, are complied with
    6. they will ensure full compliance with obligations to ensure safety, with specific regard to Regulations relevant to your business.
  2. Review and ensure compliance with relevant Compliance Codes (currently predicted to be finalised and implemented between October and December 2017).

Authored by Sheridan Landwehr, Special Counsel, Melbourne.

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