Victorian parliament pushes key changes to workplace safety

New bill seeks to improve work-related accident and injury compensation

Victorian parliament pushes key changes to workplace safety

The Victorian parliament recently introduced amendments to its workplace safety legislation that would "improve compensation outcomes for Victorian workers and their families" and "ensure the effective operation of the [state's] workplace health and safety laws".

The bill aims to amend several laws relating to accident and injury compensation, including arrangements for workers with specific work-related progressive injuries. The bill also seeks to change the threshold for issuing prohibition notices and directions to "better capture" serious risk activities. The changes further include a broader range of matters to be "notifiable incidents" and "improved entitlements" for the families of deceased workers.

In her speech during the bill's second reading, Minister Melissa Horne said that the bill is "designed to improve outcomes for injured workers and their families, enhance scheme operations and increase WorkSafe's ability to prevent and respond to workplace safety incidents".

Horne said the bill seeks to allow workers "with certain occupational diseases which deteriorate over time and can progress quickly" to receive further compensation treatment. The bill would also introduce counselling services to the families of workers with eligible conditions under "family support benefits."

Amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 would also be in place to revise the threshold for issuing prohibition notices and directions by WorkSafe inspectors. "These changes will allow inspectors to issue a prohibition notice, or give a direction, where they reasonably believe that an activity involves or will involve a serious risk to the health and safety of a person emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard," Horne said.

In addressing the state's COVID-19 temporary measures under the same Act, the bill mirrors the proposed changes to prohibition notices and directions. "This means that inspectors will continue to be able to issue prohibition notices and give directions for failure to comply with a direction relating to the COVID-19 pandemic under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 [while] the temporary measures are in effect," Horne added.

Survivors of family violence and sexual assault would be further protected under the bill. It would amend the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (VOCA) to prohibit alleged offenders from being notified of and attending hearings for matters involving family violence or sexual offences.

"These changes will be of great significance to family violence and sexual assault survivors and send a strong public message that we support them. Survivors should no longer be fearful of making an application to the [Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal]," Horne said.

The Tribunal provides financial assistance to victims of violent crime. Currently, it may notify alleged offenders and allow them to appear at hearings where they have a "legitimate interest" or "substantial interest" in a victim's application for assistance.

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