Overview of key OHS laws

key ohs laws

Workplace health and safety in Victoria is covered by two key pieces of statute legislation:

  • the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act 2004)
  • the Accident Compensation Act 1985 (amended 2007).

There are also codes and other guidance publications issued by WorkSafe Victoria. If the recommendations in these codes and guidance publications are met, they can be used as evidence to confirm compliance with the OHS Act 2004 and OHS Regulations 2007. Codes provide more specific recommendations to meet relevant parts of the Act and Regulations than other WorkSafe Victoria guidance material. The Accident Compensation Act provides for ‘no fault’ compensation if a worker is injured at work. This means that the entitlement for compensation is not linked to the ability to prove that a person’s injuries were due to the fault of another person or persons. The OHS Act 2004 is designed to provide a general duty of care on different persons in that they must:

  • Eliminate risk to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety, reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.

The Act also assigns specific legal duties to different parties, including employers and employees. These legal duties are mandatory and, if not fulfilled, could lead to action by WorkSafe Victoria on behalf of the Victorian Government. This may, in very serious cases, especially where clear negligence or recklessness and lack of good intention is apparent, include prosecution by WorkSafe Victoria on behalf of the Victorian Government. More detailed OHS requirements are incorporated in subordinate legislation – namely, the Victorian 2007 OHS Regulations – and in the codes. It is up to the employers, employees and others to establish their own flexible particular system and methods aimed at achieving compliance under the Act. These Acts, and the subordinate OHS Regulations 2007, can be accessed here. Codes and guidance issued by WorkSafe Victoria can be found at www.worksafe.vic.gov.au.