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Important changes to the OHS Act now come into effect this week on 26 October 2017

Submitted on Thursday, 26th October 2017

Our recent OHS and Workers’ Compensation briefings were attended by close to 300 Victorian Chamber members and clients across the state. The briefings provided an invaluable update on the new Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, summarised current trends in workers’ compensation and reminded attendees of the importance of focussing on the actual risks in their business as well as providing a thorough and relevant induction to new employees.

During the briefings, Senior Health Safety and Wellbeing Consultant, Anton Zytnik, also highlighted likely amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (WIRC Act), the Accident Compensation Act 1985 (AC Act) and the Dangerous Goods Act 1985 (DG Act). These changes have now been made through the WorkSafe Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (WLA) Act.

Amendments to the WIRC Act, AC Act and DG Act came into on Wednesday 27 September 2017 while amendments to the OHS Act now come into effect on 26 October 2017.

The amendments are designed to improve workplace safety by strengthening compliance and enforcement tools, ensure penalties under health and safety laws act as a sufficient deterrent and breaches can be appropriately investigated, ensure that injured workers and their family member are entitled to fair and equitable compensation, and improve the workability of the four Acts.

The WLA Act:

  • Extends the notification duty in the OHS Act to also include incidents where a person has a serious injury and receives treatment from a nurse. 
  • Amends the OHS Act to extend the time limit for prosecuting indictable offences where a Coronial report identifies that an offence has been committed, where an enforceable undertaking is breached or withdrawn or where fresh evidence is uncovered and where a court is satisfied the evidence could not have been identified within the limitation period. 
  • Amends the OHS Act to specify that the 12 month time limit for prosecuting an offence of failing to produce documents commences from the date that WorkSafe becomes aware of the offence. 
  • Increases the penalties for the OHS Act offences of failing to notify WorkSafe of an incident and failing to preserve an incident site, makes these offences indictable rather than summary, and introduces a new defence of reasonable excuse. 
  • Makes the OHS Act offences of providing false or misleading information and producing a document that a person knows to be false or misleading, indictable rather than summary. 
  • Introduces a new OHS Act offence for a breach of an enforceable undertaking. It also introduces a mechanism to allow WorkSafe to prosecute the offence which was originally the subject of the undertaking if the undertaking is breached or withdrawn. 
  • Amends the WIRC Act and the AC Act to allow reasonable costs to be paid to family members of severely injured or deceased workers for travel and accommodation where the worker’s injury requires them to be hospitalised, or the funeral is held, more than 100km from their residence. 
  • Amends the WIRC Act to clarify that a member of a Medical Panel or an expert giving advice to a Medical Panel cannot be compelled to give evidence relating in any way to their role and function as a member or expert. 
  • Amends the time limit for prosecuting an offence under Part 8 of the WIRC Act, which governs self-insurers, so that the time limit commences from the date that WorkSafe becomes aware of the offence.
  • Confirms that workers impacted by the decision of Samson Maritime Pty Ltd v Aucote are validly covered under the WorkSafe Scheme.
  • Enables the continuation of the Governor in Council’s current ability to make emergency Asbestos Orders under the DG Act, in response to large scale emergencies, such as bushfires.
  • Amends the WIRC Act to confirm WorkSafe’s current operational practice that casual loadings are included in calculating the pre-injury average weekly earnings (PIAWE) of casual workers.

The WLA Act also makes a number of technical amendments that provide clarification, remove obsolete provisions, ensure continuation of current arrangements or are consequential to other legislative change. 

A notice appeared in the Victorian Government Gazette here: http://www.gazette.vic.gov.au/gazette/Gazettes2017/GG2017S324.pdf

Make sure you keep on top of your workplace safety related obligations through the Victorian Chamber’s extensive briefing and training programs. Throughout November, we have our Mental Health Briefing series and on November 30th, join us in ourBoardroom to learn about the common problems in managing workers’ compensation – and more importantly, how to fix them.  For further assistance with any health, safety or wellbeing matter, contact our team of experts on 03 8662 5333 or hsw@victorianchamber.com.au.

 

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