Employers’ Obligations under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Laws and Regulations
By: Lisa Nguyen, Solicitor, Lovegrove Smith & Cotton
Obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic)
The main obligation under the OHS Act is for employers to provide, to the extent reasonably practicable, a safe working environment for their employees.
To meet their duty under section 21 of the OHS Act, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- Provide or maintain safe plant (such as machinery and equipment), and safe systems of work (such as controlling entry to high risk areas and prevent falls from heights);
- Make arrangements for the safe use, handling, storage or transport of plant or substances;
- Maintain the workplace under the employer’s management and control in a condition that is safe and without risks to health. This would include ensuring fire exits are not blocked and emergency
equipment is serviceable
- Provide adequate facilities for the welfare of employees at the workplace under the management and control of the employer; and
- Provide information, instruction, training or supervision to employees as is necessary to enable them to perform their work in a safe manner without risks to their health.
Employers also have a duty to monitor and keep information and records relating to the health and safety of their employees as well as the conditions of the workplace under their management and control. Furthermore, employers must provide to their employees information concerning health and safety at the workplace, including the names of the people to whom an employee can make an enquiry or complaint about health and safety.
Obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 (Vic)
The OHS Regulations specify the ways in which employers should perform their OHS duties as outlined in the OHS Act.
In relation to construction work, employers have a duty to eliminate, reduce or control any risk to health and safety associated with such work. If the employer is unable to eliminate the risk then they must take steps to reduce the risk. They can do so by substituting the hazard with a new activity, procedure, plant, process or substance, isolating the hazard from people or using engineering controls. If any risk still remains then the employer needs to reduce it by using administrative controls as well as to provide additional protection with personal protective equipment.
Engineering controls are control measures that are physical in nature such as the use of trolleys or hoists to move heavy loads. Administrative controls change the way work is done, they are work methods or procedures that are designed to minimize exposure to a hazard for example using signs to warm people of a hazard.
Employers also need to review their risk controls if things change or at the request of a health and safety representative.
Please note that it is beyond the scope of this article to provide specific details of how to comply with the OHS Act and the OHS Regulations. To assist in complying with your obligations, we direct you to the Victorian WorkCover Authority’s publications of compliance codes. Although compliance codes are not mandatory, if you comply with the compliance codes then you will be considered to have complied with your duties and obligations under the OHS Act and Regulations.
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© Lovegrove Smith & Cotton 2014