Trailer Magazine

Industrial legislation amendment fosters safer workplaces

  • Posted on Monday 9th, March 2020.

Addressing attendees at the recent Victorian Transport Association’s State Conference 2020, WorkSafe Victoria Regional Operations Manager, Ian Matthews, emphasised that the recent amendment to the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Act is primarily meant to encourage safer workplace environments.

“It’s intended not so much to penalise but rather deter unsafe practices and encourage people who have control of workplaces to concentrate on making them safer,” said Matthews. “It covers tougher penalties for existing duties.”

He said the amendment is due to commence on or close to 1 July this year, and he explained that it won’t be retrospectively enforced.

“It obviously reflects the gravity that we put on fatalities in the workplace which is an area that has been difficult and frustrating for us, and one that we have been working hard to reduce. 

“In previous years we’ve had around 30 fatalities each year in Victoria and we’re determined to reduce that number. It’s not a massive number but even one fatality is one too many.

“So this is one method that our organisation and the government have taken on in order to focus strongly on that safety space.”

Matthews went on to outline some of the conditions of the amended legislation including that it can’t be applied to a volunteer at a business.

He also described that it carries tougher penalties for existing breaches of duty that cause the death of a person. The penalties can apply to an actual person (someone who has a significant amount of control over the running of a business) or a company and include up to 20 years imprisonment for a person and a fine of over $16 million for a company.

Matthews explained that negligence in this context refers to either an act or an omission – either doing something wrong or not taking action to correct a wrong, in both cases falling short of a reasonable standard of care.

“The key message I want to convey to duty holders is that if you’re running a really tight ship now, keep doing it because ultimately that’s what we want to see.

“I want to re-emphasise that this is not just about prosecution – if we never prosecute anybody under workplace manslaughter legislation that’s a good space, that’s where we want to be.”

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