Occupational Health & Safety
In Victoria, workplace health and safety is governed by a system of laws, regulations and compliance codes which set out the responsibilities of employers and workers to ensure that safety is maintained at work.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (the Act) is the cornerstone of legislative and administrative measures to improve occupational health and safety in Victoria.
The Act sets out the key principles, duties and rights in relation to occupational health and safety. The general nature of the duties imposed by the Act means that they cover a very wide variety of circumstances, do not readily date and provide considerable flexibility for a duty holder to determine what needs to be done to comply.
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 are made under the Act. They specify the ways duties imposed by the Act must be performed, or prescribe procedural or administrative matters to support the Act, such as requiring licenses for specific activities, keeping records, or notifying certain matters.
Effective OHS regulation requires that VWA provides clear, accessible advice and guidance about what constitutes compliance with the Act and Regulations. This can be achieved through Compliance Codes, VWA Positions and non-statutory guidance ('the OHS compliance framework'). For a detailed explanation of the OHS compliance framework, see the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Compliance Framework Handbook.
Not every term in the legislation is defined or explained in detail. Also, sometimes new circumstances arise (like increases in non-standard forms of employment, such as casual, labour hire and contract work, or completely new industries with new technologies which produce new hazards and risks) which could potentially impact on the reach of the law, or its effective administration by VWA. Therefore, from time to time VWA must make decisions about how it will interpret something that is referred to in legislation, or act on a particular issue, to ensure clarity. In these circumstances, VWA will develop a policy. A policy is a statement of what VWA understands something to mean, or what VWA will do in certain circumstances.