This guidance explains the role and work of WorkSafe inspectors. It is for people who work in the sex industry.
Your sex work health and safety responsibilities
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 is a law that helps keep workplaces safe. It's known as the OHS Act. The OHS Act places responsibilities on various people. They include employers, people who manage or control a workplace, self-employed people and employees. You will have different OHS Act responsibilities depending on your role. Find out about your role and workplace responsibilities.
WorkSafe inspectors are the public face of WorkSafe. They have a leading role in the organisation.
All WorkSafe inspectors are appointed under the OHS Act. The primary role of WorkSafe inspectors is to ensure employers and other duty holders comply with health and safety laws. Under the OHS Act, duty holders include:
people who manage or control workplaces
Inspectors ensure duty holders comply with health and safety legislation. Inspectors do this by:
providing advice, information and education
ensuring people comply with the law
An inspector's role involves a range of tasks. They include:
targeting unsafe workplace activity
responding to incidents and complaints to WorkSafe's advisory service
providing guidance and advice on how to comply with Victoria's health and safety laws
enforcing those health and safety laws
Protecting occupational health and safety
Occupational health and safety involves protecting the health, safety and welfare of people at work. It's commonly called OHS.
WorkSafe inspectors work with the sex industry to improve OHS.
provide advice about the OHS rights and responsibilities of employers and employees
provide practical guidance on hazard identification and risk control
promote consultation and representation of employees in health and safety matters
commitment from management to a planned approach to health and safety
commitment from management to a continuous improvement of health and safety
effective workplace communication and meaningful employee involvement at all levels
control of hazards at their source
appropriate training, information, instruction and supervision
making health and safety part of broader systems and practices
WorkSafe encourages employers and employees to develop an effective process to fix OHS problems. An inspector can provide advice about how to resolve issues.
WorkSafe inspectors have legal powers to enter workplaces and inspect workplaces. Inspectors generally inspect workplaces as part of planned project work or response work.
WorkSafe's planned inspection and enforcement activities generally focus on:
poor-performing industry sectors and organisations
specific hazards that pose serious risks
the causes of common injury
Inspections also take place after notifiable workplace incidents, including:
dangerous incidents that expose a person to a serious risk to their health and safety
Inspectors also make response visits after calls to WorkSafe's advisory service.
Inspectors' power to enter a workplace
Section 98 of the OHS Act gives WorkSafe inspectors the power to enter a place they reasonably believe is a workplace. Inspectors can enter a workplace to assess whether it is complying with health and safety laws.
Inspectors can enter a workplace any time during working hours. They can also enter at any time they reasonably believe there is an immediate risk to health and safety.
However, an inspector must not enter any part of a place used only as a residence, except:
with the consent of its occupier
with the authority of a search warrant
Powers upon entering
Upon entering a place, an inspector may:
inspect, examine and make enquiries
inspect and examine any thing, including a document
bring any required equipment or materials
seize any thing, including a document, that may be evidence of an offence against OHS legislation
seize any thing that needs to be taken off site for further examination or testing
take photographs or measurements or make sketches or recordings
exercise any other power the inspector has under part 9 of the OHS Act or regulations
do any other thing that is reasonably necessary for the inspector to perform their function or exercise their powers
Photographs, sketches and recordings are generally of:
workplace hazards, or
hazards associated with workplace practices
Images should be for evidence of a breach of legislation. They are to record what an inspector saw at the time of the visit. People's private information will be dealt with in line with relevant privacy legislation.
WorkSafe does not encourage or endorse audio recordings of interactions with duty holders. Under no circumstances should inspectors make secret audio recordings of conversations.
Asking for name and address
An inspector may ask a person to state his or her name and address. An inspector can do this if the inspector reasonably believes the person:
may be able to help in the investigation of an indictable offence under the OHS Act, or
has committed or is about to commit an offence under the OHS Act or regulations
Penalties may apply if a person refuses or fails to provide their name and address to an inspector when asked.
A person who is asked to state their name and address may ask the inspector to produce their identity card for inspection.
Seeking help of a person
To exercise a power under the OHS Act or regulations, an inspector may seek help from any person. If the power being exercised involves entry to a workplace, the assisting person must be allowed access by:
the occupier or apparent occupier of the workplace, or
the employer who has the management and control of the workplace
Inspectors entering a workplace must take all reasonable steps to notify the occupier or apparent occupier of their presence. They must also notify any health and safety representatives, also known as HSRs.
WorkSafe inspectors carry an official identity card. They must show this identification if asked to do so when performing a function or exercising a power under the OHS legislation.
The only time inspectors might not present their identity card is:
if doing so would defeat the purpose of their entry
if doing so would cause unreasonable delay
the relevant duty holders are already aware of the inspectors' presence
Obtaining documents and answers to questions
Inspectors entering a workplace may:
require a person to produce a document or part of a document
examine that document
require a person at the workplace to answer their questions
There are times when inspectors have to provide certain warnings or information. Inspectors must provide these details to the relevant person when exercising their powers to obtain:
a name and address
production of documents
answers to questions
An inspector who enters a workplace has the power to take samples. The inspector can take samples of anything at the place that may be required for analysis.
An inspector who intends to take a sample must notify:
the occupier or apparent occupier
an HSR for members of any designated work group or DWG affected by taking the sample
Call WorkSafe's advisors on 1800 136 089 if you have questions about inspector visits. You can also contact WorkSafe online.
Inspectors' enforcement actions
A contravention is an action that is against the law. When a WorkSafe inspector finds a contravention of OHS laws, the inspector will generally take action. That action will be to ensure the duty holder fixes the contravention. The inspector may do one or more of the following:
Decide not to take compliance or enforcement action. This can happen if the contravention has already been addressed. It can also happen if the contravention is remedied at the time of inspection.
Issue an improvement notice. The notice will require the contravention to be fixed by a certain date.
Issue a prohibition notice to stop an activity or part of an activity continuing.
Give directions that a certain action be taken.
Issue an infringement notice. An infringement notice is an alternative to a prosecution. It required a duty holder to pay a fine.
Refer the matter for comprehensive investigation, with the possibility of further enforcement action.
Inspectors will provide guidance and advice on how to correct the matters identified in an improvement notice.
Report after entry
An inspector who enters a workplace must give a report concerning the entry. The inspector must give the report when leaving the workplace or as soon as practicable after leaving.
The inspector must give the report to:
the occupier or apparent occupier of the workplace
an HSR for members of any DWG in the workplace
The report must be in writing and include:
the time of entry and departure
the purpose of the entry
a description of things done while at the workplace
a summary of observations while at the workplace
procedure for contacting WorkSafe and the inspector
if photographs, sketches or recordings were made, a statement that they were made and where they will be available for inspection
Offences against inspectors
It is an offence under the OHS Act for a person to:
assault, intimidate or threaten an inspector
attempt to assault, intimidate or threaten an inspector
assault, intimidate or threaten someone helping an inspector
attempt to assault, intimidate or threaten someone helping an inspector
intentionally hinder or obstruct inspectors
make or attempt to make any other person intentionally hinder or obstruct inspectors
intentionally conceal from an inspector the location or existence of:
any other person
any other thing
intentionally prevent or attempt to prevent any other person from helping an inspector.
Feedback or complaints
WorkSafe expects its inspectors to comply with legislated obligations and WorkSafe operational procedures. Inspectors are also expected to be:
Inspectors are accountable for how they do their job.
You may feel it is necessary to inform WorkSafe about an aspect of an inspector's performance. In this case, you should contact the inspector's manager. The manager's contact details appear on the inspector's entry report.
WorkSafe will investigate complaints about inspector conduct. Complaints will be investigated independently of the inspector and their line management.
An employer or employee can also request that WorkSafe review an inspector's decision. To request a review, download and complete the form on the WorkSafe website.
WorkSafe Advisory Service
WorkSafe's advisory service is available between 7:30am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. If you need more support, you can also contact WorkSafe using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) or the National Relay Service.