Legislation has been passed that extends the operation of WorkSafe’s powers to give directions and to issue prohibition notices to duty holders if a duty holder is not complying with COVID-19 directions that have been made under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic).
These powers have been in existence for several months, but they were due to expire on 24 October 2020. However, because of the legislation that has been passed, the powers can now be exercised until 26 April 2021.
The effect of the powers is that WorkSafe is able to give directions or even stop work at workplaces if measures such as physical distancing and the use of PPE are not in place.
If a duty holder fails to comply with a direction or a prohibition notice under the OHS Act, WorkSafe may prosecute that duty holder for an offence under the OHS Act. The penalty for failing to comply with a prohibition notice or a direction issued by a WorkSafe inspector is $82,610 (500 penalty units) for an individual or up to $413,050 (2500 penalty units) for a body corporate. Both offences are indictable offences.
The powers have been extended by the passage of the Victorian COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2020. The Amendment Bill extends a range of temporary pandemic-related measures made by the previous emergency measures Bill.