Victorian government to make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence

By Portner Press on November 5th, 2019
  1. Work Health & Safety Act
  2. Workplace health & safety regulations

 

Last Tuesday, the Victorian state government announced that it will be making workplace manslaughter a criminal offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

Under this new offence, any employer that negligently causes a workplace death can be fined up to $16.5 million, while individuals – including self-employed people and company officers – can face up to 20 years in prison.

Victorian Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy said that the state government “is delivering on its election promise to make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence because no person should die at work”.

“All workers deserve a safe workplace and the proposed laws send a clear message to employers that putting people’s lives at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated,” Ms Hennessy said.

“I cannot begin to imagine the pain felt by the families who have lost a loved one at work.”

This announcement comes in the wake of the Queensland state government commencing its first prosecution under industrial manslaughter laws it introduced two years ago.

Under Queensland’s industrial manslaughter laws, individuals can be imprisoned for up to 20 years, while corporate offenders can be fined up to $10 million.

Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd has been charged for the new offence, following the death of a worker at its worksite in May this year.

The company’s directors have been charged separately for engaging in reckless conduct resulting in the worker’s death.

After conducting investigations, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and Queensland Police referred a brief of evidence to the Office of the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor.

Work Health and Safety Prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle said it decided to take action against Brisbane Auto Recycling and its directors “after careful consideration”.

“This is the first prosecution for industrial manslaughter in Queensland and is the result of a comprehensive investigation into the fatality,” Mr Guilfoyle said.

“The charge of industrial manslaughter includes allegations that Brisbane Auto Recycling caused the death of their worker by failing to effectively separate pedestrians from mobile plant, and failed to effectively supervise workers, including the operators of mobile plant.

“The charges against Hussaini and Karimi relate to their failure as directors to ensure that the business had those systems in place.”

Queensland’s Minister for Industrial Relations, Grace Grace, said that these laws “are the first of their kind to be introduced by a state jurisdiction and leave negligent employers culpable in workplace deaths with nowhere to hide”.

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