For consultants who don’t do any work in Victoria, the main take-away from the new Regulations is they are an indication that Victoria is not about to join the scheme of “nationally harmonised” workplace health and safety (WHS) laws.
The evidence for this is that the harmonised WHS laws contain a distinctive regulation 295, which requires designers of buildings to provide a report containing certain information about construction risks. The new Victorian Regulations do not contain any equivalent provision.
In 2012-2013, the “nationally harmonised” WHS laws were adopted across NSW, Queensland, NT, ACT, SA and Tasmania. While Western Australia is still consulting on whether to join the harmonised scheme, their existing state laws are quite similar to the nationally harmonised laws when it comes to designers of buildings.
Victoria has been the only outlier state, retaining its 2004 Occupational Health and Safety Act, and that looks set to continue. Under that Act, designers of buildings and structures have a simple duty to do what is reasonably practicable to make them safe for workers who use them for the purposes for which they were designed (see s28). This is a simple and readily achievable duty, compared to the more onerous requirements in the harmonised states.
The New Occupational Health and Safety Regulations in Victoria
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (Vic) sit under the Act. While the Act sets out general duties, the Regulations provide detail and procedures on more specific matters, such as asbestos removal, handling hazardous substances, or working in confined spaces.
The previous 2007 Regulations had an automatic sunset period of 10 years, so they were due to be replaced in June 2017. The new 2017 Regulations commenced on 18 June 2017. The Regulations provide over 500 pages of requirements, covering technical areas that require more specialist expertise than ours to advise on. However, WorkSafe Victoria provides some documents summarising the changes, and from those documents these are some examples:
- Falls – Due to the definition of “fall” in reg 5, the “prevention of fall” provisions in Part 3.3 apply only to falls of more than 2 metres. However, a note has been added to reg 41 to remind parties that, even for falls of less than two metres, the general duty under s21 of the Act to provide a safe working environment so far as is reasonably practicable still applies.
- Hazardous Substances – The regulations have been recast to the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) terminology
- Asbestos – Previously the Part 4.3 regulations applied only where there was fixed and installed asbestos present. This has been expanded to include other forms, such as asbestos contaminated soil or dust.
The complete Regulations can be found on the Victorian Legislation website.
For more information about the WHS duties of all designers of buildings, in both harmonised and non-harmonised states, you will find links to SafeWork Australia and state workplace safety bodies in our useful links section. Or you can purchase our 1-hour webinar recording Safe Design Update.
Risk Manager – informed