Victoria government initiates review of sentencing for workplace health and safety offences

The review is the first of its kind since the law came into effect two decades ago

Victoria government initiates review of sentencing for workplace health and safety offences

The Victorian government has provided the Sentencing Advisory Council with terms of reference to examine the sentencing of occupational health and safety (OHS) offences committed by individuals and organisations and make relevant reform recommendations.

The initiative marked the first comprehensive examination of such practices since the inception of Victoria's Occupational Health and Safety Act almost two decades ago. The attorney-general outlined specific points for the council, emphasising a multi-faceted approach. This included scrutinising the sentencing practices related to OHS offences committed by individuals and organisations and consulting with stakeholders and the community.

The attorney-general also asked the council to consider the role of injured workers and their families in sentencing proceedings and examine the enforcement of sentencing orders, especially payment rates for court fines.

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In response to these terms of reference, the council expressed its plans to conduct extensive consultations with employee representatives, unions, industry groups, employers, legal professionals, and the broader community to identify potential areas for reform. Utilising data from WorkSafe Victoria, the courts, and Fines Victoria, the douncil will analyse court data to understand sentencing practices and fine repayment rates.

In February, the council will release a consultation paper and a call for submissions. The aim is to receive input from a diverse range of individuals, including both employees and employers. Additionally, a statistical report on the sentencing of OHS offences will be published to inform the upcoming consultations.

The council will host a series of community forums across Victoria to gauge community expectations. The final report, encompassing recommendations, is expected to be delivered to the attorney-general, the minister for WorkSafe, and the TAC by 31 December.

Council Chair Professor Marilyn McMahon said, "The council welcomes the attorney-general's terms of reference to examine the sentencing of OHS offences in Victoria. Sentencing standards can play a key role in ensuring appropriate safety standards in Victorian workplaces."

"WorkSafe encourages anyone with an interest to take the opportunity to be involved in the review," added Joe Calafiore, WorkSafe Victoria CEO.

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