Occupational Health And Safety (OHS) Prosecutions
Do you need an Occupational Health And Safety (OHS) lawyer in Melbourne?
Occupation Health and Safety cases are often serious in nature and are impacted by a range of internal and external factors. With a number of stakeholders involved in these cases, seeking expert advice early is imperative.
Prosecutions by Victoria’s Workcover Authority, or ‘WorkSafe’ can be brought against an employer under a number of Acts or Regulations. They often prosecute in cases where an employee has been injured or killed whilst at work.
What are Occupational Health & Safety Laws?
OHS laws are vital to managing the risks, health and safety of everyone in the workplace. These laws include all stakeholders involved in your business such as employees, customers, visitors and suppliers. Following best practices by training staff on OHS procedures and supplying safe equipment can be expensive. Not taking the necessary precautions could result in significant consequences.
Acts and Regulations
In Victoria, most prosecutions are brought under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, particularly the failure of an employer to provide safe systems of work, sufficient supervision or instruction and training. In more serious cases prosecutions by Victoria’s Workcover Authority, or ‘WorkSafe’ can be brought against an employer under a number of Acts or Regulations including:
- Accident Compensation Act 1985
- Crimes Act 1958
- Dangerous Goods Act 1985
- Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
- Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007
Types of offences under OHS regulation
Offences under this legislation relate to following:
- Recklessly endangering persons
- Failure to provide and maintain a safe working environment
- Exposing non-employees to risks
- Failure to take reasonable care and comply with health and safety requirements
When should you enforce health and safety practices?
When starting a business OHS best practices should be followed right from the start of operations commencing. In Australia, workplace health and safety laws stipulate that a business must be a safe environment for workers and not put others at risk.
Workplace visits & inspections
WorkSafe makes approximately 40,000 workplace visits per year. Prosecutions can arise after an inspection where the authority deems appropriate. Industries which are a major focus for Inspectors are construction, manufacturing, retail trade, wholesale trade and transport and warehousing.
The Victorian Workcover Authority also has a dedicated psychosocial practice team which visits more than 500 Victorian workplaces each year. It responds to requests for assistance, and delivers advice and tools to help employers identify and manage mental wellbeing issues in their workplaces.
Legislation and WorkSafe prosecutions
Each state in Australia is governed by their own occupational health and safety laws. In Victoria there are a range of different types of corrective processes and enforcement options. This can be in the form of provisional improvement notices or on the spot fines.
Can I go to jail for an OHS offence?
In more serious cases, prosecutions can result in heavy fines or jail time. Jail sentences are used for ‘Reckless endangerment’ acts. This is where the offender has engaged in conduct that may place themselves or another person who is at the workplace in danger or serious injury. It is extremely important to be represented by a solicitor who is familiar with the correct legislation and WorkSafe prosecutions.
The court process
Often defendants will ultimately plead guilty to charges brought against them. After proper negotiations with the prosecuting authority, the matter will proceed as a plea. When hearing a plea, the Court will take into consideration the following factors:
- The surrounding circumstances of the incident (e.g the nature of the breach, foreseeability of risk etc.)
- Whether the individual or company has any previous convictions
- The extent of the risk and harm suffered by the victim(s)
- The role of the offender and the seriousness in their breach of OHS obligations
- Any post offence conduct (e.g installation of safety equipment, introduction / upgrading of training material etc.)
- Demonstrations of remorse by the offender
How are OHS cases prosecuted?
OHS matters are prosecuted in a very similar manner to criminal matters in Victoria. Anthony Isaacs is experienced in defending both individuals and companies who have been charged by WorkSafe, and are able to act and negotiate on your behalf to obtain the best result possible.
Do OHS laws apply to my staff?
Occupational health and safety laws apply to all stakeholders associated with your business. People who work for your business have a legal responsibility to themselves and others at work, in providing the safest environment possible.
There are many issues which can arise in WorkSafe prosecution. Some questions for example might include:
Is one party entirely at fault, or does more than one party bear liability?
- What are the current trade practices and do they have any impact?
- Was the training provided to employees adequate?
- The extent of the risk and harm suffered by the victim(s)
- Were current procedures up to date?
- Who is in control of a worksite?
What should I do if I have been charged with an OHS offence?
If you have been charged with an OHS offence it is imperative that you seek professional legal council. Our team at Anthony Isaacs have defended our clients at both the Magistrate’s and County Courts. Our experience is extensive in dealing with OHS cases which allows us to put forward the strongest legal case based on your circumstances.
We regularly deal with a range of OHS cases from small to serious offences providing specialist advice and strategy for the best outcomes possible.
If you have been charged with an OHS offence contact Anthony Isaacs today for an obligation free, confidential discussion.