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Occupational Health and Safety Act

Understand how the Occupational Health and Safety Act applies to each phase of a project.

Legislative context

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OH&S Act) is the main workplace health and safety law in Victoria. It sets out the key principles, duties of employers and rights of workers with respect to occupational health and safety.

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OH&S regulations) build on the OH&S Act. The OH&S regulations set out an organisation's duties and obligations during infrastructure projects.

Click on the following links to access the current Victorian OH&S ActExternal Link , OH&S regulationsExternal Link as well as other relevant legislationExternal Link .

Construction works undertaken by TAFEs are covered by the OH&S ActExternal Link . Key obligations under the OH&S Act are outlined below.

  • The OH&S Act requires that every construction project valued at $350,000 or more, designate a principal contractor responsible for OH&S obligations at the site of the construction works (the OH&S principal contractor). Under the OH&S Act, the TAFE will initially be designated as the OH&S principal contractor until the TAFE formally appoints the contractor (in writing or otherwise) to be the OH&S principal contractor.

    Once the contractor is formally appointed as the OH&S principal contractor, the contractor is required to perform the following duties:

    • put in place signs that are clearly visible from outside the workplace where the construction work is being performed, and
    • prepare a health and safety coordination planExternal Link for construction work before that work commences, as well as keep the plan up to date for the duration of the construction work.

    Further details of the health and safety coordination plan requirements are outlined in subdivision 2 - duties of principal contractors of the OH&S regulationsExternal Link .

    Despite appointing the contractor as the OH&S principal contractor, the TAFE will still have the following duties with respect to OH&S:

    • when commissioning construction works, provide the OH&S principal contractor with information that is held in relation to hazards and risks at, or in the vicinity of, the workplace where construction works will be carried out, and
    • ensure that the OH&S principal contractor is reporting OH&S correctly, in accordance with the following project reporting guidance.
  • It is important to note that the Victorian OH&S ActExternal Link is not in harmonisation with the Federal Work Health and Safety ActExternal Link . This means that some of the terminology and standards in the Federal legislation do not completely align to the Victorian terminology, which may create some confusion regarding project workplace requirements.

    The main point of consideration is the appointment of the OH&S principal contractor. Under Federal legislation, the person with management or control over the workplace (the contractor) will automatically be responsible for risks to the health and safety of any person on that worksite. However, under Victorian legislation, you must appoint an OH&S principal contractor as outlined in the OH&S obligations for construction projects section above. In this situation, you must comply with the Victorian OH&S Act rather than the Federal Work Health and Safety Act.

The following sections provide guidance on how the OH&S regulationsExternal Link must be applied across each phase of the project.

It is also important to note that WorkSafe will likely have the following rolesExternal Link across the project lifecycle under the OH&S ActExternal Link :

  • monitor and enforce compliance with the OH&S Act and regulations
  • promote public awareness and discussion about occupational health, safety and welfare issues, and
  • publish OH&S statistics.

Reviewed 01 August 2023

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