Update to Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations

WorkSafe Victoria recently announced that updated regulations have been created under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and (with very limited exception) they came into effect on 18 June 2017. The update is part of a standard 10-year review process and the new regulations have been described by WorkSafe as “mainly the same”, but duty holders should still (at least) consider the high-level points below.

Will I be significantly affected?

The changes are primarily targeted towards certain industries and activities including:

  • asbestos removal;
  • importation of hazardous substances and of veterinary or agricultural chemicals;
  • construction work; and
  • operation of a mine or other major hazardous facility.

General changes

A handful of the amended regulations represent a welcome move towards alignment with the Model WHS Laws (we have previously pointed out the trend towards this alignment in Victoria). For example, notes have been added to clarify that, due to recent updates to the OHS Act, any reference to “health” includes psychological health (as per the Model Laws).

Another broad change which could cause some teething issues is the renumbering of the regulations. The layout has been ‘reset’ to sequential numbering instead of the more elaborate system previously in use. Duty holders and their advisers may need to relearn where the information most important to them can be found for future reference.

Hazardous substances

The new regulations require duty holders who deal with any hazardous chemicals to understand and implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) and associated terminology in place of the system which applied previously. This is another change that reflects existing practice under the Model Laws.

High risk work licences

A 10-year transition away from ‘certificates of competency’ towards ‘high risk licences’ has now been completed with the removal of a mechanism in the regulations which allowed for older certificates to be converted to the newer format. Workers and employers engaged in high risk work must ensure that they are compliant with the new requirements for high risk work.

Mines

The terminology used in relation to mining has been updated. This is another example of a shift towards consistency with the Model WHS Laws. This should make compliance easier, particularly for nation-wide operators, but care should still be taken to ensure that the changes are not overlooked.

Fees

All fees prescribed under the regulations are now stated in terms of ‘fee units’ which are indexed and updated annually. It is now necessary to convert fees into a dollar amount at the relevant time

Resources to assist with the transition

Useful resources available from WorkSafe Victoria include:

  • reconciliation table, which helps those familiar with the old numbering system to locate specific regulations in the new regulations;
  • summary of the changes made to the regulations; and
  • a more comprehensive ‘line-by-line’ guide to what has changed.

If you have any queries or would like further information regarding this article, please contact:

Barney Adams
Lawyer
T: (03) 6235 5917
E: badams@pageseager.com.au

David Dilger
Partner
M: 0428 238 819
E: ddilger@pageseager.com.au

Published: 17 August 2017

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