The Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 will replace the regulations that have been in operation in Victoria since 2007 and are due to expire next year. The Victorian OHS regulator, WorkSafe Victoria, has had to decide whether to abolish, remake or revise the regulations. It has chosen to revise the regulations.
WorkSafe says its aims are to clarify, streamline and modernise the regulations. This will reduce red tape and duplication for employers and where possible align with the national model regulation that have been adopted in all other major states but not in Victoria. That’s a bonus for employers who operated across Victorian borders and have to comply with two sets of safety laws.
It is estimated that the benefit of the updated regulations will be more than $1 million in reduced compliance costs for employers and improved safety outcomes over each year up to 2027 when the regulations will be required to be reviewed again.
This justification for revising the current regulations is set out in the independent Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) that looks at the nature of the problem to be regulated and provides a cost-benefit analysis of various options. The RIS was prepared by Deloitte Access Economics after extensive research and consultation with the working community.
Deloitte estimated that the cost to society, business and government over the next 10 years from abolishing the OHS regulations would be more than $235 billion! The predicted rise in death and injury rate alone was estimated at $127 billion. It was therefore not a real option.
Deliotte determined that making no change would still contribute almost $12 billion to the Victorian economy over the next 10 years by improving workplace safety. The benefit was similar to but not as much as updating the regulations which justified WorkSafe’s preference.
The RIS also considered the option of fully adopting the national model regulations. Victoria chose not to adopted uniform national OHS laws in 2011 because it already had the most recent local OHS regulatory regime, including an OHS Act that was in fact the model for the national work health and safety Act. The RIS killed off the harmonisation option by estimating it would costs $1 billion to set up. The exercise would have contributed around $2 billion to the economy but a lot less than if Victoria continued to go it alone.
The revised regulations, along with the RIS, were released for public comment in July. WorkSafe received more than 60 public submissions from its usual stakeholders – employer and employee’s groups – as well as from individual employers, individual unions and professional bodies who would be affected by the updated regulations and wished to express their views on the draft regulations and what, if any, further changes are needed.
WorkSafe will review those comments over the next few months and take them into account when drafting the final regulations in time to make them the new laws next year.
The similarity of the 2017 regulations to the old regulations means employers will need to make few changes to their OHS processes and procedures. The regulations will once again set out OHS requirements employers must implement for managing risk of the common physical hazards and hazardous substances and materials, managing safety in hazardous industries eg construction and complying with various training, administrative processes and paperwork that support the operation of the regulations.
The absence of significant operational problems with the 2007 regulations has allowed WorkSafe to tidy up some provisions. This work has been done on hazardous manual handing, noise, falls prevention, confined spaces, plant, high risk work, hazardous substances, asbestos, lead, construction, major hazard facilities, mines and licensing.
WorkSafe intends to progressively release a package of revised compliance codes next year to coincide with the new regulations coming into force. The compliance codes for hazardous manual handling, plant, hazardous substances, asbestos, lead, falls, noise and confined spaces will provide advice how to comply with the specific sections of the regulations. These codes are made under the power of the OHS Act, so the timing of their release is not tied to the making of the new regulations. They will be introduced progressively in the latter half of 2017.
The most significant new compliance code will be hazardous manual handling. It will replace WorkSafe’s 16-year-old manual handling code or practice which no longer has any legal status. While the old document is still solid guidance, the long-awaited replacement should set a new benchmark on how to more effectively manage a hazard that causes about half of all workplace injuries. It will have evidentiary status under the OHS Act.
More information on the proposed 2017 regulations can be found at this WorkSafe website:
Sitecraft is a leading supplier of Materials Handling and Safety Equipment. This includes dangerous goods storage solutions and equipment for the safe handling and storage of hazardous goods; www.sitecraft.net.au.