THE Sentencing Advisory Council has completed a number of community consultations across Victoria, including Morwell, as they prepare a final report which reviews how occupational health and safety (OHS) offences are sentenced in Victoria.

The SAC will consider whether sentencing laws and practices could be changed to promote the objectives of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) and improve workplace health and safety in Victoria.

Conducted by SAC chief executive, Paul McGorrery, and SAC senior legal policy officer, Octavian Simu, the pair travelled throughout both regional and metropolitan Victoria to gather information from Victorians.

Throughout February and March, Mr McGorrery and Mr Simu delivered case studies to small focus groups, visiting the five regional towns of Morwell, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, and Shepparton, and three metropolitan areas of Lilydale, Dandenong, and the Melbourne CBD.

“The community consultation events went remarkably well. We had dozens of Victorians shows up to share their views about this very important topic, and every single one of them came with … a willingness to actively participate in some really constructive conversations about how to create some useful reforms in the space,” Mr McGorrery said.

Throughout the eight community consultations, more than 50 people attended to share their views. During these consultations, Mr McGorrery believes that many of the mock sentences that attendees provided had some consistency.

“I think it’s fair to say that while OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) offences are a risk-based scheme, the criminal offence is about creating a risk in the workplace, regardless of whether you cause harm,” he said.

“For a lot of people who showed up, the fact that a risk did result in harm was relevant to what sentence they imposed.”

The SAC displayed two separate case studies throughout the state, only providing one per consultation.

The first case study involved a small business that displayed a risk from a roof, resulting in no injuries, while the second case study was a large business that had an incident resulting in a fatality.

“The sentencing outcomes from people attending the (risk-only case study) sessions tended to be much lower for that case study than at the other (fatality case study) sessions,” Mr McGorrery found.

“The two majors factors distinguished in the two case studies is that one resulted in a death and that same case study was also a very large company. So those two factors significantly contributed to their decision-making.”

Currently in the Victorian judicial system, the laws or practices in Victoria don’t acknowledge the relevance that a community might place on the factors that are an incident resulting in death, or the size of the company.

Mr McGorrery also found that during the consultations most attendees’ motivations were to deter the company or other companies from the OHS wrongdoing, instead of retrospectively punishing the company for their wrongdoing.

“The findings across the sessions seemed quite consistent,” he said.

From June, the SAC will examine the results of the submissions, surveys, and community consultations to develop evidence-based recommendations for reform.

The recommendations are set to be handed over to the Attorney General, Jaclyn Symes, before, or on, December 31, 2024.

The final report is set to be published on the SAC website in February or March of 2025.

“We are really grateful to every Victorian who showed up and shared their views on this extremely important topic,” Mr McGorrery said.

The SAC are still taking written submissions and undertaking surveys until May 31, which can be found at