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OH&S Improvement Notices in Victoria

WorkSafe can enforce occupational health and safety (OH&S) laws by issuing Improvement Notices, Prohibition Notices, Non-disturbance Notices and directions. In serious cases, WorkSafe may pursue further legal action. This information offers an overview of Improvement Notices under Victorian OH&S laws.

When are Improvement Notices given?

An Improvement Notice is a written notice that instructs you to fix an OH&S issue within a specified timeframe.

If an inspector believes you have breached an OH&S law they can issue you with an Improvement Notice. For example, if you have a site that has rubbish everywhere that could cause a trip or fall you may be issued with an Improvement Notice if the inspector believes that the poor housekeeping practices could lead to an injury.

Before the inspector issues you with an Improvement Notice he or she should talk to you about the suspected breach and seek immediate voluntary compliance that will fix the problem, such as tidying the site and providing waste bins.

An Improvement Notice must contain:

  • the basis for the inspector’s belief that an OH&S law has, or is likely to have, been breached
  • the actual OH&S law that has or is likely to have been breached
  • the date by which you have to fix the problem
  • the penalty for contravening the Notice
  • how the Notice may be appealed. 

What should you do if given an Improvement Notice?

  • Bring the Notice to the attention of each person whose work is affected by the Notice
  • Give a copy of the Notice to the relevant health and safety representatives (if any)
  • Display a copy of the Notice in a prominent place at or near the part of the workplace where the work that is affected by the Notice is being performed
  • Fix the problem within the date specified in the Notice.

If you are not sure what you should do to fix the problem you can ask the inspector or contact HIA for assistance. After fixing the problem you should inform the inspector that you have rectified the issue. The inspector may want to come and check what you have done.

Are you able to challenge the Improvement Notice?

If you do not agree with the Improvement Notice, you can seek a review of the inspector’s decision to issue the Notice. The first avenue of appeal is to the WorkSafe Internal Review Unit (IRU) and that appeal must be made within 14 days of the Improvement Notice coming to your attention. You can also apply for a stay or suspension of the Notice pending the outcome of internal review. A request for a stay should be lodged with the application for internal review.

The review may decide to affirm, vary or set aside the inspector’s decision. If you are not satisfied with the decision of the IRU your only other option is to seek a review of that decision by the Victorian Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT).

What happens if I don’t comply with the Improvement Notice?

If you do not comply with the Improvement Notice you may be taken to court and face heavy fines. You can either comply with the Notice or seek a review with a stay within the set time periods.

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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