Home · Blog · Legislation and Regulations : What is the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004?

On 1 July 2005, the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 came into effect.

The reforms to the Act are aimed to make WorkSafe a more constructive, accountable, transparent and effective regulator, and are the cornerstone of legislative and administrative measures to improve occupational health and safety.

The Act is the outcome of a major review of the 1985 Act, carried out for the Victorian Government by Chris Maxwell QC.

Most sections of the new Act came into effect on 1 July 2005. However, please note two important later developments:
  • A duty of employers to consult with employees. Came into effect on 1 January 2006. The duty of employers to consult is one of the most significant changes introduced by the Act . Under the new Act, from 1 January 2006 employers are required to consult with all employees who are, or are likely to be directly affected by proposed changes to the workplace that may affect their health and safety.
  • New duties of designers of buildings or structures. Comes into effect on 1 July 2006.

Why these changes?

Workcover states that the goal is to improve Victoria’s health and safety system and prevent work-related deaths, injuries and illness and the associated high social and economic costs. Good safety, they say quite rightly, is good for the community and good for business. Work-related deaths, injuries and illness have tragic effects on workers, their families, workplaces and community.

Workplaces and working arrangements have changed a great deal since the introduction of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985. The legislation needed to be modernised to reflect these changes.

A major review of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985 was thus conducted by Chris Maxwell QC in 2004. The review found that while the 1985 Act had served Victoria well and was basically sound, reforms were needed to make it work better and to meet the needs of workplaces today and into the future. Maxwell recommended changes to the OHS legislation and the way WorkSafe, as the regulator, operates to reduce injury, disease and death in Victorian workplaces.

What will the reforms do?

The reforms aim to create safer and healthier workplaces by:

  • modernising the language and layout of the Act, making it easier to understand
  • providing greater clarity and certainty about the obligations of duty holders
  • fostering increased participation by employers, employees and their representatives in workplace health and safety issues
  • promoting fairness, consistency and transparency in the enforcement of the legislation, and
  • bringing penalties broadly into line with other jurisdictions.

“Getting into the Act” booklet (pdf)

The booklet provides this information:

  • An overview of the new Act
  • Workplace Responsibilities
  • Workplace Representation
  • The role and powers of WorkSafe inspectors
  • New Right of Entry Provisions
  • Prosecution and Penalties

Further Information: If you have any further queries regarding the changes, it may be useful to contact the WorkCover Advisory Service directly – info@worksafe.vic.gov.au – telephone (03) 9641 1444 or 1800 136 089 (toll free).

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