On 20 July 2021 new regulations, known as the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Infringements and Miscellaneous Matters) Regulations 2021 (Vic), were made to establish a safety infringement notice scheme in Victoria (Scheme).
Under the Scheme, which commences on 31 July 2021, WorkSafe inspectors will have the power to issue “on-the-spot” fines to employers and other duty holders, including workers, who are found to be in breach of particular provisions of the OHS Act and the OHS Regulations.
The Scheme permits WorkSafe inspectors to issue infringement notices in respect of 54 prescribed offences, such as:
- a failure by an employer to allow a health and safety representative(HSR) to have access to information relating to the HSR’s designated work group identified in section 69(1)(a) of the OHS Act;
- an employer allowing an employee to perform high risk work without an appropriate high risk work licence;
- a person (i.e. a worker) who holds a construction induction card not keeping the card available for immediate inspection on request;
- a failure by an employer or self-employed person to keep a copy of a safe work method statement for high risk construction work for the duration of that work;
- a failure by the principal contractor for a construction project to keep, and make available for inspection, a copy of a health and safety co-ordination plan (and any revisions to that plan) for the duration of the project.
For an individual, the fine will be up to $363.48. For a company, the fine can be up to $1,817.40.
The intent behind the Scheme appears to be to use infringement notices to punish offences where the contraventions are clear and do not need to be established through a detailed investigation process.
WorkSafe is not precluded from taking other remedial action against a person simply because an inspector issues them with an infringement notice. For example, it will remain open to the inspector to issue an improvement or prohibition notice to the recipient of an infringement notice. However, the intention appears to be that if an infringement notice is issued, it is unlikely that a prosecution for the same offence will follow.
It will be important for anyone who receives an infringement notice to ensure that it has been validly issued and seek advice about whether it is susceptible to challenge.