OHS Legislative Update: What retailers need to know

There are a number of changes happening in the OHS/WHS legislative world, and it’s important retailers are aware of and prepared for these changes. In this months’ WHS article, we provide you with an update on changes relating to workplace safety laws in Victoria.

Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 (Victoria)

On 22 June 2021, the Victorian Government introduced the Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 to Parliament, to strengthen Victoria’s laws and make Victorian workplaces safer. 

What changes will be brought about?

A key change in the Bill will ensure that labour hire workers have all the same rights and safety protections as other workers.  

Under the current OHS Act 2004 (VIC), the labour hire provider is deemed the employer.  The host also has a duty of care to the labour hire worker under section 21, however the host’s duties to labour hire workers under the Act, does not extend beyond section 21.  For example, a labour hire worker working at a host employer site, is unable to make a request to have a designated work group at the host site. 

The Bill addresses this gap by extending the definition of “employer” and “employee” in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 to ensure labour hire workers are considered employees (beyond Section 21) of the host under the Act.  

The Bill also introduces a new duty, requiring labour hire providers and host employers to work together through consultation, cooperation and coordination to ensure the safety of labour hire workers.  Retailers who operate in other States/Territories where model WHS laws apply will already be familiar with the duty to consult, cooperate and coordinate.  Any breach of this new duty will be punishable by fines of up to $32,713 for individuals and $163,566 for businesses.

The Bill will make a number of other amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), Dangerous Goods Act 1985 (DG Act), Equipment (Public Safety) Act 1994 (EPS Act) and the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (WIRC Act) to improve the operation of these Acts by:

  • ensuring duty holders under workplace safety laws cannot use insurance or indemnity arrangements to avoid the consequences of failing to comply with the law;
  • streamlining provisions for electronic delivery of certain notices and reports issued by WorkSafe inspectors, and allow infringement notices to be served electronically;
  • allowing Authorised Representatives of Registered Employee Associations (ARREOs) and Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) to take photos, measurements, and make sketches and recordings; and
  • simplifying procedures for disposing of or destroying property which has been seized by WorkSafe, where the owner of the property does not want the property returned or the item is a copy of a document obtained under relevant inspector powers.

How can retailers prepare for these changes?

  • For retailers who engage labour hire workers:
    • review your health and safety processes to ensure labour hire workers are afforded the same health and safety protections as your other employees at your workplace.
    • review your consultation and issue resolution procedure to include a process for consultation, cooperation and coordination with other duty holders (i.e. labour hire provider)
  • Identify and address any existing contracts or arrangements that purports to insure or indemnify a person for the person’s liability to pay a pecuniary penalty under workplace safety laws

The ARA will monitor the progress of the Bill through the Victorian Parliament and keep members updated as it develops.

Disclaimer

The material within this update is provided for general information and educational purposes in summary form on topics which are current when it is first published. The content does not constitute legal advice or recommendations and should not be relied upon as such.

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