Occupational health and safety
In Victoria, occupational health and safety (OHS) in the workplace is regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (the OHS Act) and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 (Vic) (the OHS Regulations). There are different laws in other States and Territories and your organisation will need to check these if it operates outside of Victoria.
The purpose of the OHS laws is to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees and other persons who are at, or come in to contact with a workplace in Victoria. The laws set out various duties that organisations and individuals must comply with in the workplace. The laws are regulated and enforced by a Victorian government authority known as the Victorian Worksafe Authority (WorkSafe). Worksafe may prosecute organisations that breach (do not comply with) the OHS law duties that they are required to comply with.
Because a lot of the information and advertisements about Victoria’s OHS laws mention or depict businesses, some people think that the OHS Act only applies to for-profit, business organisations. This is not correct. The OHS Act is very broad and has the potential to apply to all Victorian community organisations (both incorporated and unincorporated). The OHS Act will apply to all community organisations that have employees, but may also apply to community organisations that are completely volunteer-based where they operate in a 'workplace'.
The information on this website is intended as a guide only, and is not legal advice. If you or your organisation has a specific legal issue, you should seek advice before making a decision about what to do.
Note: Reforms on the horizon
Australia's work health and safety laws are on the verge of a major overhaul. The Federal Government has been working with the States to harmonise health and safety laws, making these laws consistent across all states and territories. The Model Work Health and Safety Act was due for enactment in Victoria (and elsewhere) at the start of 2012 but the Victorian Government has deferred the implementation of the new laws in Victoria. This guide will be updated to reflect these changes once the reforms are finalised for Victorian community organisations.
Guide: Community organisations and Victoria's occupational health and safety laws
This guide is designed to help people who are involved in Victorian, not-for-profit community organisation with a basic understanding of occupational health and safety laws (OHS laws). The guide looks at:
- whether the OHS laws apply to your not-for-profit community organisation;
- if so, what are your community organisation’s duties under the OHS laws;
- if the duties that apply to your organisation are breached, who may be liable (legally responsible) for the breach (including an organisation’s 'officers’);
- what your organisation can do to avoid breaches of the OHS laws;
- what your organisation is required to do in the event of a workplace incident or injury; and
- the powers of the Victorian WorkSafe Authority.
This guide focuses on the legal duties (obligations) that community organisations and the ‘officers’ of community organisations owe to various people, including their employees, volunteers, contractors, consultants and members of the public.
Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS) information
Volunteering Australia (VA) information