New OH&S Laws For Volunteers to Be Delayed in Victoria
Thursday, 17th November 2011 at 11:12 am
Victorian volunteering organisations concerned about upcoming changes to the state’s occupational health and safety laws have been given some breathing space to make sure they are compliant, according to Volunteering Victoria CEO Dianne Embry.
“WorkSafe representatives informed members at a special presentation recently that Victoria is unlikely to implement the national OH&S legislation before 2013,” said Embry.
The Federal Model Work Health and Safety Act (WHS) is due for enactment at the start of 2012 in most states. The national strategy is being managed by Safe Work Australia.
Dianne Embry believes that when the time does come to change, most Victorian volunteering organisations will be well-placed to comply with the new legislation.
“Almost all community organisations are responsible under current law for volunteer health and safety wherever the organisation’s work is being carried out,” she said.
“The new legislation will provide greater legal certainty for volunteers by giving them the same legal status as paid staff.
“But Volunteering Victoria has been advised that it’s unlikely to increase an organisation’s liability in a practical sense if they are already taking proper care of the health and safety of their volunteers.
“What this legislation will do is pay respect to the 1.25 million Victorians who devote their time to vital work in the community by properly recognising them in health and safety law,” said Embry.
Safe Work Australia says Western Australia has also applied for a delay in introducing the legislation but all other jurisdictions remain on track for the implementation date of January 1st 2012.
Volunteering Australia says the harmonisation of OHS legislation through the model work health and safety WHS Act and the inclusion of volunteers means that volunteers are protected in a consistent way across the nation.
VA says the inclusion of volunteers in the definition of workers in s.7 of the Act ensures volunteers receive the same level of work health and safety protection as employees. It says this protection has been called for and welcomed.
Victorian organisations or volunteers with questions about this legislation should call Volunteering Victoria on 8327 8500.