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Changes to workplace safety requirements for Victoria

The Victorian Government recently introduced some new workplace safety requirements through the Workplace Safety Legislation and Other Matters Amendment Act 2022 which introduced amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), and other Acts.

The amendments include changes relating to the issuing of prohibition notices and directions by Worksafe Inspectors, notifiable incidents and workers compensation for eligible diseases.

The changes took effect on 17 March 2022.

Amendments to incident notification requirements

Changes to incident notification requirements include a broader range of incidents that must be notified to WorkSafe.   

The amendments change the threshold for notification of incidents of the type listed under section 37(2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), where a person is not seriously injured. 

This has changed from incidents exposing a person 'in the immediate vicinity to an immediate risk', to incidents exposing a person 'to a serious risk to the person's health or safety emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard'.

Notification to Worksafe is now required if an incident occurs that exposes a person to a serious risk to the person's health or safety emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to: 

    (a) an uncontrolled escape, spillage or leakage of any substance, including dangerous goods within the meaning of the Dangerous Goods Act 1985; or 

    (b) an implosion, explosion or fire; or 

    (c) electric shock; or 

    (d) the fall or release from a height of any plant, substance or thing; or 

    (e) the collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, any plant (including plant in relation to a mine)— 

      (i) that is prescribed by the regulations; or 

      (ii) the design of which must be registered in accordance with the regulations; or

    (f) the collapse or partial collapse of a building or structure; or 

    (g) the collapse or failure of an excavation or mine or of any shoring supporting an excavation or mine; or 

    (h) the inrush of water, mud or gas in workings in a mine, underground excavation or tunnel; or 

    (i) the interruption of the main system of ventilation in a mine, underground excavation or tunnel; or 

    (j) any other event or circumstance prescribed by the regulations.

Other incident notification provisions of section 37 of the OHS Act such as the requirement to notify deaths and certain injuries have not changed. 

Amendments to inspector notices and directions

WorkSafe inspectors can now also issue prohibition notices and directions when they find non-immediate yet serious health and safety risks and prohibit an activity until satisfied the risks have been remedied and the workplace made safe. 

Under this new threshold, it's likely that some activities for which an inspector may have issued an improvement notice in the past may now become subject to a prohibition notice.

Amendments in relation to prescribed illnesses

The amendments will allow regulations to prescribe certain illnesses to be incidents for the purposes of incident notification provisions. 

The illnesses and diseases to be notified have not yet been defined but could include some infectious diseases posing a serious health risk, like COVID-19, serious illnesses acquired in workplaces, like silicosis, and, potentially, work-related transmissible diseases

Other amendments

Changes to workers’ compensation arrangements will provide additional benefits to workers with eligible diseases, such as silicosis, as well as other eligible progressive diseases that have not stabilised.

For example, as of July 1 2022 workers with eligible diseases will not need to prove that their injury has stabilised to access lump sum payments. They will also be able to make subsequent applications if their impairments progress.

Other amendments include increased support for workers with eligible diseases and for the families of workers with silicosis and similar diseases, such as counselling and improved compensation and assistance entitlements.

What do these changes mean for HIA members?

These changes follow a range of other workplace safety changes over the past few years by the Victorian Government and members are encouraged to familiarise your businesses to be aware and across these changes.

In terms of the specific changes members may need to modify their incident notification procedures to ensure compliance with the new requirements, as some incidents that did not previously require notification will now have to be notified to WorkSafe if the incident occurs at their worksite.

Members should also be aware that when a Worksafe inspector visits their sites some ‘serious risk’ activities for which an inspector may have issued an improvement notice in the past may now attract a prohibition notice and/or direction.

It is also important to note that the Victorian Government is also working on a range of other proposed workplace safety changes and HIA will continue to keep members informed of the changes and make submissions to the various proposals to ensure any new laws are proportional and implemented in a practical manner.

Further information

More information on the changes is available on WorkSafe’s website.

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