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New South Wales set to introduce new industrial manslaughter laws

New South Wales is poised to join the other states and territories in Australia (except Tasmania) to introduce industrial manslaughter laws.

After a period of community consultation, the NSW Government has introduced into Parliament new industrial manslaughter laws. The laws provide a new offence of gross negligence by a person (being a company, an individual or an officer of the company) that causes the death of a person at a workplace.

In line with many other jurisdictions, there will be significant penalties, including a maximum jail sentence of up to 25 years as well as penalties of up to $20 million.

New South Wales previously had industrial manslaughter laws under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000. However, despite fatalities occurring in the workplace while that Act was in operation, no prosecutions were commenced under the old industrial manslaughter laws. Those laws were removed when the harmonised model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act was introduced in 2011.

The Bill includes a very wide definition of gross negligence, which will also include “inadequate corporate management, control or supervision of the conduct of one or more authorised persons in the business” or conduct substantially attributable to “failure to provide adequate systems for conveying relevant information to relevant persons in body corporate”.

In addition to the new laws introduced this month into Parliament, the Government is also proposing a designated prosecution unit within the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions be created with the responsibility for prosecuting any industrial manslaughter cases.

The current Bill, which will be debated in Parliament, also provides that there is an exemption for volunteers, and that no limitation period will apply to the offence, meaning that the usual 2-year limitation will be of no effect.

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