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Occupational Health & Safety

In Victoria, workplace health and safety is governed by a system of laws, regulations and compliance codes which set out the responsibilities of employers and workers to ensure that safety is maintained at work.

The Act

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (the Act) is the cornerstone of legislative and administrative measures to improve occupational health and safety in Victoria.

The Act sets out the key principles, duties and rights in relation to occupational health and safety. The general nature of the duties imposed by the Act means that they cover a very wide variety of circumstances, do not readily date and provide considerable flexibility for a duty holder to determine what needs to be done to comply.

The Regulations

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 are made under the Act.  They specify the ways duties imposed by the Act must be performed, or prescribe procedural or administrative matters to support the Act, such as requiring licenses for specific activities, keeping records, or notifying certain matters.


Effective OHS regulation requires that WorkSafe provides clear, accessible advice and guidance about what constitutes compliance with the Act and Regulations. This can be achieved through Compliance Codes, WorkSafe Positions and non-statutory guidance (“the OHS compliance framework”).  For a detailed explanation of the OHS compliance framework, see the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Compliance Framework Handbook.


Not every term in the legislation is defined or explained in detail.  Also, sometimes new circumstances arise (like increases in non-standard forms of employment, such as casual, labour hire and contract work, or completely new industries with new technologies which produce new hazards and risks) which could potentially impact on the reach of the law, or its effective administration by WorkSafe. Therefore, from time to time WorkSafe must make decisions about how it will interpret something that is referred to in legislation, or act on a particular issue, to ensure clarity. In these circumstances, WorkSafe will develop a policy. A policy is a statement of what WorkSafe understands something to mean, or what WorkSafe will do in certain circumstances.

Any organisational health and safety management system must be auditable to ensure compliance with the Act.

The following items list specific references regarding duties under the Act:

Employer obligations (Sections 21, 22 and 23 Duties of Employers to Employees)

  • Section 21 covers the duties of employers toward their employees.
  • Section 21 (1) requires an employer to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable for employees, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.
  • Section 21 (2) sets out specific duties as examples of what is necessary to comply with the general duty.
  • Section 21 (3) duties of employers are to employees including independent contractors and their employees. These duties are limited to matters over which the employer has, or should have, control, or would have had control but for any agreement between the employer and the independent contractor to the contrary.
  • Section 22 describes duties of employers to monitor health and conditions.
  • Section 23 an employer must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees of the employer are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer.

Employee obligations (Section 25)

Employee obligations under the Act are covered in section 25. This requires that:

  • An employee must take reasonable care for his or her own health and safety and for the health and safety of anyone else who may be affected by his or her acts or omissions at the workplace, and to cooperate with his or her employer with respect to any action taken by the employer to comply with any requirements imposed by or under this Act. In addition, employees must not willfully or recklessly interfere with or misuse safety equipment that is provided. They must not willfully put at risk the health and safety of others.

Consultation (Part 4: Sections 35 (1 and 2) and 36 (1,2 and 3))

The Act clearly defines the duty of employers have to consult with staff and/or health and safety representatives on a range of OHS issues, including making decisions about risk controls, adequacy of facilities and any changes to the workplace, plant or conduct of work that may directly impact on the safety or health of employees.

Issue resolution (Section 73)

Section 73 of the Act requires the employer or their representative, and the employees affected by the issue, and/or a designated work group in relation to which the issue has arisen, to work to resolve the health and safety issues at that workplace.

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 Part – 2.2 Issue Resolution Procedures, provides detail on parties to the resolution process, procedures for reporting issues and procedures for resolving issues.

A health and safety issue may include any:

  • item in the general duties section of the Act
  • hazard or potential hazard, and
  • procedural issue relating to health and safety does not necessarily imply the existence of a health and safety dispute. Issues can be resolved through the prescribed procedure set out in the OHS Regulations Part 2.2, or through an agreed procedure, which provides a step-by-step process to enable the speedy and effective resolution of health and safety issues.
Manual handling

Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 Part 3.1 Manual Handling emphasises the identification, assessment, control and review of manual handling risks. All organisations should address their manual handling issues by (as a minimum) ensuring compliance to this part of the regulations.

Manual handling covers a wide range of activities including lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, throwing and carrying. It includes repetitive tasks such as packing, typing, assembling, cleaning and sorting, using hand-tools, and operating machinery and equipment.

Effective occupational health and safety management

An effective health and safety program will include managing key sector risks such as manual handling, occupational assault and stress. As a minimum, programs should contain:

  • specifically designated personnel to be responsible for occupational health and safety functions and activities
  • documented occupational health and safety policies and procedures, including safe work procedures and emergency procedures
  • appropriate training and information in health and safety for all staff
  • an established incident reporting and investigation process, including hazard identification and control mechanisms
  • appropriate consultative procedures, and
  • monitoring and review processes.

When developing an occupational health and safety program, refer to AS4804 and AS4801.

Duties relating to incidents – notification of incidents to WorkSafe Victoria (sections 37, 38 and 39)

Part 5 of the Act refers to the notification of incidents:

  • Section 37 defines the incidents to which part 5 applies
  • Section 38 explains the requirements of the ‘Duty to notify’, and
  • Section 39 describes the requirement to preserve the site.

Note: Relevant incident(s) must be reported to WorkSafe Victoria by calling 132 360, immediately after becoming aware of the incident. Written notification must be provided to WorkSafe Victoria within 48 hours.

A guide to the Act and advice – Worksafe Victoria

A Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 can be obtained from the local WorkSafe Victoria office. WorkSafe Victoria also provides advice on all workplace health and safety issues. The contact telephone number is 03 9641 1444. Toll free 1800 136 089.

VWA (WorkSafe) website:

Copies of Victorian Acts and Regulations can be purchased from Information Victoria on 1300 366 356.

For further information

Department of Health and Human Services

Geoff Reany, Principal OHS Consultant, Operational Support
Telephone: (03) 9096 7575
Email:[email protected]

Compliance Codes

Compliance codes provide practical guidance to those who have duties or obligations under the OHS Act. They aim to provide easy to understand information on how to comply.

This information, if applied appropriately, will mean those who follow it are deemed to have complied with their obligations under the OHS Act.

The eight compliance codes now available are:

* These codes replace existing Codes of Practice.

The codes were developed after extensive consultation with industry, employers, employees, governmental agencies and the community to provide greater certainty about what constitutes compliance under the OHS Act.

Victorian OH&S Act Section 21. Duties of employers to employees

Part 2 (e) provide such information, instruction, training and supervision to employees of the employer as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

As the employer is responsible for providing a safe workplace, the type and duration of the training to allow the employees to operate equipment in a safe manner needs to be decided by the employer in consultation with the employee and their OH&S / WHS advisors. Once the task has been identified and consultation has taken place, a suitable training provider should then be selected to carry out the training component.

Apart from the requirement in the Regulations for “Licences” prior to operating some equipment, Worksafe Licences are not available or required for many types of others. Training (not a Licence) is required on all other equipment prior to operation including Earthmoving equipment, Scissor lifts, Vertical lifts, Boom and Trailer mounted boom lifts under 11m platform height, Walkie Stackers and so on. To allow the employee to complete a task safely the training should be based around the task or tasks to be performed, Nationally Recognised training is set up so a pre-determined course outline (Unit of Competency (UOC)) is developed and the training must meet (map to) each criteria in that UOC. The end result of this method of delivering training can sometimes lead to the students being trained in areas that they will never need in their work activities, the training can also take far longer than is needed to be able to perform the task safely.