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News 22 September 2020

WorkSafe inspectors granted power to enforce compliance with OHS laws

WorkSafe Victoria inspectors will have greater powers to shut down activities that might expose workers to COVID-19 risks under a new Bill introduced to Parliament.

The Victorian COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2020 will extend a range of temporary pandemic-related measures made possible by the previous emergency measures Bill, which is scheduled to sunset next month.

The Bill will help WorkSafe inspectors enforce compliance with OHS laws and ensure employers are meeting their obligations to protect employees from COVID-19.

A spokesperson for Victorian Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy said, “the safety changes will better enable inspectors to issue prohibition notices in relation to work activities or processes that might be in breach of pandemic restrictions or controls.”

The Bill temporarily amends sections 112 (“Power to issue prohibition notice”) and 120 (“Power to give directions”) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 to clarify that “a failure to comply with a direction relating to the COVID-19 pandemic” given under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 “is taken to be an activity that involves an immediate risk to the health or safety of a person”.

The Bill’s health-related amendments, which will remain in place until 26 April 2021, broadens the types of people who can be appointed as authorised officers to enforce public health interventions, and clarify powers for ensuring people who test positive for coronavirus, or are close contacts, comply with directions to self-isolate.

As the initial Bill provided an additional six months of weekly workers’ compensation payments to long-term injured workers who were due to transition off their WorkCover benefits, Victorian Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy explained, “the new Bill provides the same arrangement for long-term injured workers whose benefits are set to expire in October, November, or December - given they face increased challenges in finding employment from the combined impact of their injuries and the pandemic.”

Other measures allow vital services to be carried out electronically, judge-only trials in certain circumstances and the extension of interim family violence and personal safety intervention orders.

Help and support

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry continues to effectively advocate on behalf of our members and employers as these critical changes and we will keep you up to date on progress.

The experienced and qualified team of HSE&W Consultants and Auditors at the Victorian Chamber can advise, review, and audit your HSE policies, procedures, and practices to ensure your workplaces are as ready as they can be.

For more information and HSW support please contact us on 03 8662 5333 or hsw@victorianchamber.com.au to discuss your needs.

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