Increased Fines Under OH&S Law

By on December 7, 2017

DR ELIZABETH GIBSON, General Manager of CMPA reports on the increased penalties under the amended OH&S Act.

Amendments to the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (The Act) passed through State Parliament on 21 September 2017. The penalties for failing to notify WorkSafe of notifiable incidents have quadrupled.

The Bill’s changes include increased penalties for employers who fail to notify WorkSafe of an incident, or fail to preserve the site of an incident. The amendments also make these offences indictable: indictable offences are more serious (than summary offences) and are heard before a judge and jury in the County or Supreme courts.

Employers who are an individual will now face penalties of up to 240 penalty units ($38,000 from 1 July 2017) up from 60 penalty units. Companies will face penalties up to 1200 penalty units ($190,000 from 1 July 2017) up from 300 penalty units. This offence has also been amended so as to introduce a “reasonable excuse” defence.

WorkSafe have already prosecuted four times in 2017 for the offences of failing to notify and preserve the scene.

Incidents that require immediate notification to WorkSafe include those in which an incident at a workplace results in:

(a) the death of a person; or

(b) a person requiring medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance; or

(c) a person requiring immediate treatment as an in-patient in a hospital; or

(d) a person requiring immediate medical treatment for

  1. the amputation of any part of his or her body; or
  2. a serious head injury; or
  3. a serious eye injury; or
  4. the separation of his or her skin from an underlying tissue (such as de-gloving or scalping); or
  5. electric shock; or
  6. a spinal injury; or
  7. the loss of a bodily function; or
  8. serious lacerations; or

(e) any other injury to a person or other consequence prescribed by the regulations.

Notification also applies to an incident that exposes a person in the immediate vicinity to an immediate risk to the person’s health or safety through:

(a) the collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, any plant that the regulations prescribe must not be use unless the plant is licensed or registered; or

(b) the collapse or failure of an excavation or of any shoring supporting an excavation; or

(c) the collapse or partial collapse of all or part of a building or structure; or

(d) an implosion, explosion or fire; or

(e) the escape, spillage or leakage of any substance including dangerous goods (within the meaning of the Dangerous Goods Act 1985); or

(f) the fall or release from a height of any plant, substance or object; or

(g) in relation to a mine—

  1. the overturning or collapse of any plant; or
  2. the inrush of water, mud or gas; or
  3. the interruption of the main system of ventilation; or

(h) any other event or circumstance prescribed by the regulations.

WorkSafe will also get new powers to prosecute where an offender breaches an enforceable undertaking and new penalties can be applied by the courts where an enforceable undertaking is breached, 500 penalty units ($79,300) for an individual and 2500 ($396,000) penalty units for a company.

The contact number to notify WorkSafe of a serious incident is 132 360.

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