VIC legislation

Occupational health and safety (OHS) laws require employers and all other workplace parties to consult and cooperate in the management of workplace risks, in order to protect the health and safety of workers and others who might be at risk from the work.

The principal OHS law in Victoria consists of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic), supported by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Vic). This legislation applies in all Victorian workplaces. In many respects it is reasonably consistent with the national model work health and safety (WHS) legislation that applies in most other jurisdictions.

Despite the general similarity with many of the provisions of the model WHS legislation, Victoria’s OHS legislation should be checked for details of requirements.

The OHS Act and Regulations are supported by compliance codes that provide guidance in achieving the required standard of health and safety.

Compliance codes approved in Victoria are listed on WorkSafe Victoria’s website.

OHS regulator

The state’s OHS regulator is WorkSafe Victoria.

Health and safety duties

The OHS Act 2004 imposes a duty of care on a range of workplace parties, including employers; self-employed persons; designers of plant, buildings or structures; manufacturers, importers and suppliers of equipment and substances; and people who install, erect or commission plant or structures. Duty-holders must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that they are not exposing people to health and safety risks arising from the work.

Employers’ duties

Employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for their employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This responsibility extends to independent contractors and their employees, in relation to matters over which the employer has control (or would have control if not for any agreement purporting to limit or remove that control). Employers must also ensure that non-employees are not exposed to health or safety risks arising from the conduct of the employer’s undertaking. Employers must monitor workers’ health and conditions at work, and provide appropriate OHS information to workers.

Duties of self-employed persons

Self-employed persons have similar duties to ensure that people are not exposed to health or safety risks to their arising from their undertakings.

Employees’ duty

Employees have a duty of care toward their own and others’ safety. They must cooperate and comply with health and safety requirements.

Duties of other persons

Other persons with management or control of a workplace (such as owners) must ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe.

Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers, and people who install, erect or commission plant have corresponding responsibilities to ensure plant, substances and structures are safe when used as intended.

Anyone who recklessly endangers others at work is guilty of an offence.

Key concepts

Risk management

Health and safety risks arising from the work must be effectively managed by eliminating them, or failing that, reducing the risks as far as is reasonably practicable, to protect workers and other persons against harm to their health, safety and welfare. 

Reasonably practicable

Risks should be managed so far as is reasonably practicable, depending on the likelihood of adverse consequences and their potential severity, methods of eliminating or minimising the risk and what the person knows or ought to know about it, and lastly the cost of dealing with the risk.

Consultation with employees

Employers must consult with their employees, so far as is reasonably practicable, when identifying hazards, assessing risks and making decisions about how to deal with them. It is also required when making decisions about WHS procedures or facilities for workers’ welfare or proposing changes that may affect health or safety.

‘Consultation’ means sharing relevant information with workers, giving them a reasonable opportunity to express their views, taking those views into account when making decisions, advising them of decisions, and including the health and safety representative (HSR) in the process where employees are represented by an HSR.

Representation of employees

On request, employers must facilitate representation of employees through designated work groups and health and safety representatives, who are entitled to initial training and annual refresher training. Employers must also establish a health and safety committee if asked to do so by an HSR.

Among other powers, an HSR who believes the Act is being contravened and the issue is on-going may, after consultation with the person responsible for the contravention, issue a provisional improvement notice requiring the problem to be rectified.

Direction to cease work

If a health and safety issue poses an imminent, serious risk to health and safety, an HSR may direct employees to cease work. However, the HSR must first consult the employer and try to resolve the matter.


Discrimination, coercion, inducement and misrepresentation that prevents a person from being involved in workplace safety is expressly prohibited. 

Issue resolution procedures

Employers and employees must attempt to resolve health and safety issues in accordance with an agreed procedure, or if no procedure has been established, the procedure prescribed by the regulations.

Incident notification and preservation of incident sites

Unless there is a reasonable excuse for not doing so, the OHS regulator must be notified of serious injuries and incidents. Incident sites should not be disturbed (except to rescue or protect people or take other essential action) until an inspector arrives or such other time as an inspector directs.

Right of entry

A union official (‘an authorised representative of a registered employee organisation’) with an entry permits has the right to enter a workplace to investigate reasonably suspected contraventions of OHS laws.

Licences, registration, permits and other requirements

Requirements for licences, prescribed qualifications or experience, plant registration and other such permits and certificates of competency must be complied with.

Prosecutions and other enforcement options

Breach of WHS laws can have a range of consequences, including improvement or prohibition notices from inspectors; prosecutions; heavy fines; enforceable undertakings and imprisonment. It is an offence to contravene an enforceable undertaking.

[Last updated 15 October 2017]