Occupational Health & Safety Laws

Occupational Health & Safety Laws relate to legal requirements that govern conditions at workplaces. It is a comprehensive set of guidelines with many sections having associated policies. In Australia various States have separate legislation but basically the motive of all is to ensure that any worker gets a safe and clean working environment. For the purpose of this write-up the laws in place in Victoria will be in focus but almost the same can be said to be relevant in other states too with slight modifications.

Occupational health and safety is a complex system of laws, regulations and compliance codes. The objective is to mark up responsibilities – both on the part of employers and workers – that ensure strict safety norms are enforced at work place. This is statutorily enshrined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. It seeks to enhance through administrative and legislative avenues the occupational health and safety of workers in the state of Victoria.

The Act is a tenet that sets out in very clear and well documented ways the main principles duties and rights that need to be followed to ensure occupational health and safety. The main features of the Act can be summed up as follows. It covers a range and variety of circumstances where this Act has to be followed both in letter and spirit. It does not allow any flexibility on the clauses and sets out stringent guidelines on what needs to be done without giving any room for any party to go around the stipulations set therein.

Further, the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 are made under the Act of 2004. The regulations specify in clear details the manner in which the clauses as laid down in the Act should be optimally performed. It also sets guidelines on the procedural and administrative measures that need to be taken to make sure that the provisions of the Act are strictly complied with. These can range from acquiring licenses for conducting specific activities as laid down by law and upkeep of work places including cleanliness. Most employers in the latter case prefer to use natural cleaning products as against toxic cleaning solutions.

Not all working environments can be covered by this Act because of rise of new and unforeseen circumstances. Industries are witnessing constant innovations and implementation of advanced and state of the art technologies in existing industrial scenarios. This gives rise to new types of hazards and risks at the workplace that had not been previously taken into account under the Act. In such circumstances, Worksafe, a body instituted by Acts of Parliament takes decisions on how to interpret the new situation and act as per the law. WorkSafe will then develop a policy to deal effectively with it.

Finally, the act has clear and lucid demarcation and categorisations as per industry. One section deals with high hazard operations such as safe use of chemicals, working in a confined space, guarding of machinery and use of mobile equipment. In another, specific industries and occupational health and safety measures that need to be included are mentioned including forestry, oil and gas, construction, blasting, diving and fire fighting.

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