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Mar 4, 2024

Examining Potential Changes to Workplace Health and Safety Offences

Workplace Health and Safety

By Lauren Cassimatis

On the 24th of January, the Victorian Government issued a media release outlining plans to conduct an in-depth examination into Workplace Health and Safety offences. According to the Sentencing Advisory Council, this will involve a “major review” into the sentencing for both individuals and organisations charged with occupational health and safety offences.

This review represents the first such review of OHS offences for almost two decades. As such, it is important to examine what the review will cover, as well as the various aspects that will be investigated.

As a leading modern law firm, Gallant Law operates in accordance with the latest industry standards. Below, we will provide clarity on the potential updates and repercussions of workplace health and safety offences.

Recommendations for Reform

Since being passed as legislation, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 has governed the sentencing parameters for OHS offences in the State of Victoria. While amendments have been made since 2004, this legislation sets out the key principles, duties, and rights surrounding OHS.

The goal of the upcoming review, therefore, is to both examine these current sentencing guidelines, as well as make “relevant recommendations for reform”.

The Attorney-General has now asked the Sentencing Advisory Council to:

  • examine sentencing practices for OHS offences
  • consult with stakeholders and the community
  • consider whether sentencing practices align with community expectations
  • consider the role of injured workers and their families in sentencing proceedings; and
  • examine the enforcement of sentencing orders, especially payment rates for court fines.

Source: Major Review of Sentencing for Workplace Health and Safety Offences Announced

What Else Will the Review Involve?

The Sentencing Advisory Council is set to publish a consultation paper in February 2024 that calls for submissions, as well as a statistical report to support and inform subsequent consultations.

Being a comprehensive review, this process seeks to involve the input of employee representatives, unions, industry groups, employers, the legal profession, and the broader community. 

WorkSafe Victoria CEO Joe Calafiore has also welcomed this approach, stating that “‘WorkSafe encourages anyone with an interest to take the opportunity to be involved in the review.”

Court data will also be examined to understand current OHS sentencing processes and fine repayment rates. Here, relevant data is going to be sourced from the courts, WorkSafe Victoria, and Fines Victoria.

Need to Speak with a Defence Lawyer? Contact Gallant Law Today

If you are facing a charge related to OHS or workplace offences, we recommend that you reach out to a defence lawyer as soon as possible. At Gallant Law, we offer legal advice, guidance, and representation for:

With more than 20 years of experience in criminal law, Gallant Law approaches all clients’ legal proceedings with compassion, warmth, and a family-first approach.

Please follow this link to get in touch with a skilled criminal defence lawyer in Geelong, Melbourne, or Warrnambool

A Four Stage Process

The review involves four key stages, which began in 2023 and will continue well into 2024. These include:

  1. Consultation with key stakeholders with an aim to to identify potential issues that arise in the context of sentencing OHS offences. This process was finalised in September 2023.
  2. The Advisory Council plans to publish both a consultation paper and a statistical report on the sentencing of OHS offences. This is set to be published in Feb 2024 and aims to seek out the involvement of stakeholder and community views.
  3. The Council seeks to engage in an in-depth consultation with the community. Here, they will be calling for written submissions (both via email and Engage Victoria). This will also involve a series of community consultations in regional Victoria, as well as across the greater Melbourne metropolitan area. This will occur between the months of February and May of 2024.
  4. At this stage, the Council will provide a final report that outlines recommendations to the Attorney-General. This will be finalised in December 2024 and then published on their website.

WorkSafe And WorkCover: Know Your Rights And Legal Options

While this Major Review into sentencing may result in changes and reforms, the final report for these new recommendations has a final cut-off date of December 31, 2024. 

If you are currently facing charges related to WorkSafe and/or WorkCover breaches, you can also refer to our recent article. Here, we have outlined the parameters of the current legislation and when to seek legal assistance. 

If the matter is urgent, we encourage you to get in touch with us directly. At Gallant Law, you can access a leading criminal lawyer in Melbourne, Geelong, or Warrnambool. Our seasoned defence lawyers can help you to navigate and respond to a wide variety of OHS offences in Victoria. 

Disclaimer: Legal Information and Advice

The information provided on this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The content is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a solicitor-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.