|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
Summary of State Regulation of Labour
State regulation of labour has had two principal strands: the physical (workplace health and safety) and the non-physical (see industrial relations).
The regulation of workplace health and safety dates back to the Supervision of Workrooms and Factories Act 1873, subsequently replaced by provisions in the Factories and Shops Act 1885. The Minister of Labour assumed responsibility for workplace health and safety in 1900 from the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) although the agency administering the function was the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) until 1916.
Over time the function has evolved, encompassing related functions which had quite separate administrative histories but which were subsequently assumed within the Labour and Industry portfolio. These functions include the inspection of boilers which was transferred from the Minister of Mines (VRG 30) in 1962 and occupational health services which was transferred from the Minister of Health (VRG 39) in 1984. The regulation of dangerous goods was also assumed within the Labour and Industry portfolio in 1984 but has been registered as a separate function.
The dangers involved in the operation of certain machinery or equipment such as engines, boilers and scaffolding were recognised in various Acts including the Factories and Shops Act, Boilers Inspection Act, Boilers and Pressure Vessels Act and the Scaffolding Act. These Acts established Boards of Examiners with responsibility for examining and certifying engine drivers, boiler attendants, welders of boilers and pressure vessels and scaffolders. Inspectors of boilers and scaffolding were also subject to examination and certification by these Boards. The Minister of Mines (VRG 30) and the Minister of Local Government (VRG 57) had responsibility for these functions prior to their transfer to the Minister of Labour and Industry in the 1960's and 1970's.
Prior to the Industrial Safety Health and Welfare Act 1981 the substantive legislative basis for workplace health and safety were the provisions of the Labour and Industry Act which had replaced the Factories and Shops Act. Provisions with respect to specific technical workplace safety matters were also administered pursuant to the Lifts Regulation Act (later Lifts and Cranes Act), the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Act and the Scaffolding Act.
The shift in focus of workplace health and safety from industry and commercial enterprises to all workplaces occurred in 1985 with the introduction of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985. This Act consolidated many provisions relating to workplace health and safety. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985 was introduced as part of the legislation establishing the WorkCare workers compensation scheme. Although the regulation of workplace health and safety became notionally linked with the workers compensation function through WorkCare, the functions continued to be administered separately. The Dangerous Goods Act 1985 which was also passed at this time consolidated provisions relating to the regulation of dangerous goods.
At the agency level administrative responsibility for the enforcement of workplace health and safety passed from the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) to the Department of Labour I (VA 2874) in 1916, to the Department of Labour and Industry (VA 1027) in 1954, to the Ministry of Employment and Training (VA 704) in 1984 and to the Department of Labour II (VA 2777) in 1985.
The development and promotion of workplace health and safety standards has been overseen since the 1960's by a succession of statutory bodies namely the Industrial Safety Advisory Council, the Industrial Safety Health and Welfare Advisory Council (VA 1371) and the Occupational Health and Safety Commission (VA 1647).
Since 1992 the development and promotion of standards and the implementation and enforcement of those standards have been the responsibility of a single agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Authority of the Department of Business and Employment (VA 3096).
Workplace Health and Safety
The earliest attempt at regulating workplace health and safety in Victoria was made with the passing of the Supervision of Workrooms and Factories Act 1873 (37 Vic., No.466) which provided for the Central and local Boards of Health to inspect factories and to make regulations with respect to the number of persons employed in any one room as well as ventilation, cleanliness and sanitary requirements. The legislation was found to be inadequate by a Royal Commission on Employees in Shops, which reported in March 1884. The concerns investigated by the Commission mostly all related to the health, safety and welfare of employees in industry. The specific areas focussed on were:
the suitability of premises as factories (noting a lack of cleanliness, insufficient sanitation, poor ventilation and overcrowding)
the hours of employment
the employment of women and young persons
the ratio of apprentices to trained employees
intervals for meals
precautions against machinery accidents
the "sweating" system (ie. employees working in homes).
The Factories and Shops Act 1885 (49 Vic., No.862), which became operative in March 1886, provided for:
standards of sanitary and employment conditions including cleanliness, ventilation and provision of meal breaks
guarding of machinery and equipment and notification of accidents causing death or injury.
The provisions of this Act applied to metropolitan areas only and were enforced through the registration and inspection of factories - see factory registration and industrial compliance.
A Factories Office was established within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) to ensure the operation of the Act. The Central Board of Health, also within the Chief Secretary's Department, was given responsibility for approving plans and particulars of new factories and workrooms as well as enforcing standards of sanitary conditions.
Other provisions subsequently introduced by amendments to the Factories and Shops Act included:
prohibition of overcrowding in shops
requirement for shops to have fire fighting equipment
prohibition of girls lifting heavy weights
requirement for first-aid appliances to be kept on premises.
The Department of Labour I (VA 2874) was established in 1916 and assumed responsibility for functions previously exercised by the Factories Office. The Labour and Industry Act 1953 replaced the provisions of the Factories and Shops Act with respect to workplace health and safety. The Department of Labour was renamed as the Department of Labour and Industry (VA 1027) in 1954.
By 1954 workplace health and safety encompassed the maintenance of standards prescribed under the Factories and Shops legislation with respect to the safety and suitability of buildings, the safe operation of machinery, the comfort of employees and other physical conditions (ensuring that they were free from hazard). It also encompassed notification of factory accidents, representation on safety standards committees, industrial safety training courses, promotion and publicity of industrial safety and the regulation of lifts.
The Industrial Safety Health and Welfare Act 1981 (No.9717) replaced the workplace health and safety provisions previously contained in the Labour and Industry Act 1958 with a more broadly based approach to industrial safety health and welfare. The legislation placed specific responsibilities and duties on the occupiers of workplaces, the manufacturers and installers of all equipment used in the workplace and the sellers and hirers of machinery. Provision was also made for the formation of safety committees and the election of safety representatives.
On 1 July 1984 the occupational health services function of the Health Commission (VA 652) was assumed into the broader workplace health and safety function undertaken by the Department of Labour and Industry(VA 1027). This function was combined with the dangerous goods function under the administration of the Ministry of Employment and Training (VA 704).
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985 (No.10190) came into force 1 October 1985. The Act applies to all workplaces in Victoria.
Further details about specific aspects of the workplace health and safety function are given below.
The Central Board of Health within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) was initially responsible for approving plans and particulars of new factories and workrooms.
By arrangement with the State Building Directorate, the Department of Labour I (VA 2874) required production of plans and specifications in connection with the building of new factories or the extension of existing factories from May 1946. A departmental architect was appointed in September 1946 to carry out this activity.
Lifts and Cranes
The administration of the Lifts Regulation Act 1906, which came into force 1 March 1907, was entrusted to the Chief Inspector of Factories. Administration of this Act primarily involved the registration and inspection of lifts, issuing of orders to lift-owners to comply with safety regulations, and investigation of accidents occurring in connection with lifts.
The Lifts and Cranes Act 1959 introduced a system of regulation for the use of cranes including conveyors and hoists and other associated gear. It replaced the provisions of the Local Government Act 1958 with respect to the safe working of building cranes which had been administered within the Public Works portfolio (VRG 28) until 1958 and from 1958 to 1959 within the Local Government portfolio (VRG 57).
The Lifts and Cranes (Amendment) Act 1970 provided for the certification of riggers, crane drivers, crane chasers and dogmen; lift mechanics were already required to be licensed.
The registration of amusement structures was introduced pursuant to the Lifts and Cranes (Amusement Structures) Act 1978.
Boilers and Pressure Vessels
The function inspection of boilers transferred to the administration of the Minister of Labour and Industry on 25 November 1962. Historically, this function was a responsibility of the Minister of Mines (VRG 30).
The Department of Labour and Industry undertook the following with respect to boilers and pressure vessels:
checking and approval of designs prior to manufacture
surveillance during construction
testing and registering new vessels
certification of vessels prior to sale
monitoring change of ownership
receiving reports of mishaps.
The Boilers and Pressure Vessels Act 1970, effective from 1 January 1971, updated the legislation and made provisions for plans and specifications of vessels to be submitted to the Chief Inspector before manufacture. The Act also introduced an annual registration fee for owners of boilers and pressure vessels.
The Scaffolding Act 1971 became operative from 1 August 1974 replacing provisions in the Local Government Act 1958 with respect to the safety of scaffolding which had been administered within the Local Government portfolio (VRG 57) and by Municipalities (VRG 12). From this time the inspection of scaffolding in the Municipal Districts of Melbourne, South Melbourne, Port Melbourne, St. Kilda, Richmond, Collingwood and Fitzroy were the responsibility of the Scaffolding Inspectorate of the Department of Labour and Industry. Responsibility for the inspection of scaffolding in the remaining Municipalities rested with scaffolding inspectors employed by the Councils under the supervision of the Department.
Workplace Health and Safety Training
In December 1946 the Minister of Labour presided over a conference held to consider instituting a course of training for safety and the prevention of accidents in industry. The arrangements for providing such a course were handed to the Melbourne Technical College and a course was established on an experimental basis in 1947.
Workplace Health and Safety Standards
On the 14 January 1958 a Board of Inquiry into the Accident Rate in Industry in Victoria was appointed by the Governor in Council. The Board presented a report on its findings on 14 July 1958. The Board recommended the establishment of an Industrial Safety Bureau, comprising representatives of employers and employees, to promote industrial safety.
An Industrial Safety Advisory Council was established at the end of 1960 having been constituted under the Industrial Safety Advisory Council Act 1960 (No.6639). The Council comprised members from: the Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers; the Victorian Employers' Federation; the Melbourne Trades Hall Council; the National Safety Council; the Department of Health and the Department of Labour and Industry.
The Council's function was to offer suggestions for the reduction of industrial accidents and the promotion of industrial safety.
The Industrial Safety Health and Welfare Advisory Council was constituted under the Industrial Safety Health and Welfare Act 1981 (No.9717) superseding the Industrial Safety Advisory Council.
Under this Act the Council was vested with the function of making recommendations to the Minister with regard to:
methods and procedures for reducing the number and severity of accidents to persons employed or engaged in or on workplaces
promoting and encouraging the establishment and employment of safe systems of work in all places
the promotion generally of the safety, health and welfare of persons employed or engaged in or on workplaces
the making or amending of regulations
the adoption, approval or rejection, whether wholly or partially, of codes of practice or standards.
Following proclamation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985 which repealed the Industrial Safety Health and Welfare Act 1981, an Occupational Health and Safety Commission (VA 1647) was established on 1 October 1985 superseding the Industrial Safety Health and Welfare Advisory Council as the primary source of policy advice to Government on the development and promotion of standards, regulations and codes of practice for workplace health and safety.
In particular, the functions of the Commission were to:
advise the Minister on regulations, codes of practice and licensing schemes
formulate standards and other guidelines on health and safety
promote and approve education and training courses
disseminate information and commission research on health and safety matters.
The Occupational Health and Safety Commission became the Board of Management of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority.
Summary of Related Functions 1958
The Board of Inquiry into the Accident Rate in Industry in Victoria reported in July 1958 that the following agencies held responsibility for workplace health and safety matters.
Department of Labour and Industry
empowered under the Labour and Industry Act 1953 to enforce safety measures in factories, including: guarding of dangerous machines and dangerous parts of factories; the investigation and reporting of accidents; the certification of persons in charge of steam engines; the registration of factories and the application of regulations to factory buildings; conditions in factories, including cleanliness, overcrowding, ventilation, dust, privies, exits etc. Also empowered under Lifts Regulation Act 1928 to enforce the safeguarding of goods and passenger lifts attached to any building
(this function - workplace health and safety)
Department of Public Works (Local Government Branch)
empowered under the Local Government Acts to make provision for safe working in connection with scaffolding and building cranes
(see scaffolding inspectors and scaffolders, certification of)
Department of Health
the Health Act 1956 required that proclaimed dangerous trades be registered with the Commission of Public Health. Power was also given to make regulations safeguarding the health of persons engaged in dangerous trades or any occupation likely to endanger health. The provisions relating to dangerous trades were administered by the Commission through the Industrial Hygiene Division of the General Health Branch of the Department.
(see occupational health services)
Explosives Branch, Chief Secretary's Department
the Branch implemented the requirements of the Explosives Act 1928 with regard to the manufacture, carriage, storage, sale and importation but not the use of explosives. The Branch provided advice to all Government Departments and investigated accidents caused by explosives
(see dangerous goods)
Department of Mines
the Boiler Inspection Branch was concerned with the elimination of danger in respect of the operation, construction, and maintenance of boilers, receivers, pressure vessels etc. under the Boiler Inspection Acts and the Boiler Inspection (Air and Gas Receiver) Act 1940
(see boilers, inspection of)
the Leasing Branch had responsibility for regulations made under the Mines Acts and the Coal Mines Regulation Acts with respect to safety and health in metal and coal mining, quarries and clay, gravel and sand pits.
Workers Compensation Board
under the Workers Compensation Act 1951 it was envisaged that the Board would make recommendations with relation to prevention of industrial accidents
(see workers compensation)
Local Government Authorities
responsible for the supervision of Scaffolding Regulations
(see scaffolding regulations).
1969 Structural Changes to Department of Labour and Industry
During 1969 the structure of the Department was altered to include a Division of Technical Services alongside the Division of Inspection Services.
The Division of Technical Services was established to consolidate the Department's activities which have an engineering basis. The Division of Technical Services initially comprised the Lifts and Cranes Inspectorate, the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Inspectorate and advisory services on the technical aspects of the Factories and Shops Inspectorate.
The Division of Inspection Services provided inspection and field investigation services in relation to the Labour and Industry Act and Regulations and other legislation relating to industrial safety, health and welfare (with the exception of the Boiler and Pressure Vessels Act, Lifts and Cranes Act, Scaffolding Act, and Workers Compensation Act). The Division was especially concerned with the maintenance of prescribed standards of physical conditions in factories, shops and other places of employment, including building standards, guarding of machinery, provision of amenities, industrial safety in general and other industrial matters such as hours of work or trade.
1985/86 Structure of Department of Labour II
The Occupational Health and Safety Program of the Department of Labour (VA 2777) included the following Branches:
Working Environment Policy Branch developed programs for the effective implementation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985
Workplace Inspection Branch provided an inspection service under the Act for all Victorian workplaces
Dangerous Goods Branch (formerly Hazardous Materials Division)(see dangerous goods)
The Technical Services Program carried out inspection and design review functions with respect to lifts, cranes, amusement structures, boilers and pressure vessels, as well as issuing certificates of competency associated with the manufacture and operation of the above equipment. The specialist inspection and advice service to the building and construction industry were incorporated within the Building and Construction Industry Division.
The Occupational Health Services Branch consists of a team of scientists, doctors, nurses an support staff who
investigate and monitor
perform analysis of air and biological samples
diagnose occupational disease
provide information, educatory and advisory services.
1992/93 Structure of the Department of Business and Employment
The Department of Business and Employment, through the Division of Health and Safety and the Division of Chemicals and Plant Safety, which operate under the business name of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority, is responsible for maintaining acceptable standards for workplace health and safety. During 1992-93 the function encompassed
compliance and enforcement programs (workplace visits, issuing Prohibition and Improvement Notices and Written Directions)
community and industry education
training and information provision
policy and standards development.
The Building and Construction Industry Branch aims to reduce the incidence of work-related accidents and diseases on building construction and excavation sites through:
seminars and presentations
workplace visits to ensure compliance with legislation
provision of specialist engineering advice to industry and the inspectorate.
The Licensing Branch is responsible for:
registering hazardous equipment and machinery
issuing competency licences to operators of specific machinery
ensuring lifts are manufactured and installed in accordance with the Lift and Cranes Act 1967
ensuring amusement structures are operated in accordance with regulations
ensuring boiler and pressure vessels are manufactured and operated pursuant to the Boiler and Pressure Vessels Act 1970.
The Occupational Medicine Section focused on the development of policy and the provision of advice related to the issues of drugs and alcohol in the workplace, passive smoking, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B, hazardous substances and carcinogenic substances.
The Central Investigation Unit ensures quality control of accident investigations and undertakes appropriate prosecutions for non-compliance with occupational health and safety legislation.
The Chemicals and Plant Safety Division provides technical expertise relating to plant, dangerous goods and occupational hygiene. The Division has three branches:
Chemicals Management (to provide technical assistance to industry and to promote and protect the health and safety of people at work, and the public, from the risks of dangerous goods, hazardous substances, and physical and biological hazards)
Plant Safety Branch (to provide assistance to designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and to protect the public from hazards associated with certain types of plant and equipment)
Major Hazards and Engineering Branch (processes applications for approvals and licences for the storage and handling of dangerous goods, and approvals for the design and construction of boilers, pressure vessels, lifts and cranes).
The Safer Chemicals Task Force is linked with the function.
Victorian Workcover Authority
From 1996 this function was transferred to the Victorian Workcover Authority. The Authority is responsible for managing workplace health and safety, providing health and safety advice and assistance to Victorian workplaces and prosecuting breaches of health and safety laws.
Department of Labour and Industry Annual Reports 1980, 1983, 1984.
Department of Labour Annual Report 1985-86.
Victoria's Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985 (Pamphlet issued by the Department of Employment and Industrial Affairs, October 1985).
Department of Business and Employment Annual Report 1992-93.
Victorian Year Book 1981, 1982.
Report of the Board of Inquiry into the Accident Rate in Industry in Victoria, presented 14 July 1958 (in Papers Presented to Parliament, Session 1958-59, Vol.2).