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Industrial Manslaughter – National Update

The introduction of an industrial manslaughter offence in Queensland has kicked off debate throughout other Australian jurisdictions. With the upcoming national review of workplace health and safety laws, it is a timely reminder to consider possible changes in each Australian state.

In the face of the threat of imprisonment, it is essential that organizations and their officers are taking stock of their workplace health and safety systems and ensuring sound crisis management plans are implemented to enable the business to respond to a workplace fatality or serious workplace incident. A measured response and timely legal advice could be the difference between serious charges being laid.

Employers in states that are yet to introduce an offence of industrial manslaughter are not off the hook. There has been an increase in the number of prosecutions for reckless breaches of workplace health and safety laws and in circumstances where the breach results in a fatality, there has been an increase in penalties.

Australian Capital Territory 

Apart from Queensland, the ACT is the only other Australian jurisdiction to have an industrial manslaughter offence. This offence has been in place in the ACT since 2004 but there have been no prosecutions under this provision.

Queensland 

Since the industrial manslaughter laws entered into force on 12 October 2017, Queensland has been pushing for national industrial manslaughter laws to be introduced in other Australian jurisdictions, especially in light of the upcoming national review of workplace health and safety laws.

New South Wales 

New South Wales had previously considered implementing industrial manslaughter offences in 2004/2005. There has been no further recent discussion regarding the introduction of industrial manslaughter.

Northern Territory 

Northern Territory Unions have recently been lobbying the Northern Territory Government to introduce industrial manslaughter laws similar to Queensland's. The state government's response indicated that they are waiting for the national review of workplace health and safety laws prior to moving to introduce any industrial manslaughter offence.

South Australia 

The South Australian Labor party announced in January 2018 that they intend to introduce higher penalties for work health and safety offences that cause workplace deaths. 
It is still unclear whether this will involve the introduction of industrial manslaughter provisions or only involve the increase of maximum penalties under the South Australian provisions.

Tasmania 

The Tasmanian Labor Party has indicated that if they win the state election to be held on March 3 2018, they will introduce industrial manslaughter offences. It is not part of the current Liberal Government's policy to introduce an industrial manslaughter offence.

Victoria 

Victorian unions are starting to campaign heavily for the introduction of industrial manslaughter offences. This action is likely to be spurred by the state election scheduled for November 2018.

Western Australia 

Prior to Labor's success in the March 2017 election, they promised to introduce 20-year jail terms for work-related reckless or gross negligent conduct. It has been indicated that a new Workplace Health and Safety Bill (based on the harmonised laws) will be introduced mid-2019 which may incorporate industrial manslaughter offences.

What Should you do?

No organisation is immune from the risk of a workplace fatality.

More than ever, businesses need to get on the front foot with safety management and undertake comprehensive reviews of safety systems and processes. Even businesses that are typically considered to be 'low risk' environments need to consider the possibility of workplace fatalities and make sure that controls are implemented to minimize those risks.

Copyright 2018 K & L Gates

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About this Author

Paul Hardman, KL Gates, Workplace Safety Investigations Lawyer, Labor Disputes Attorney
Partner

Mr. Hardman is a partner in the Labour Employment and Workplace Safety practice in the Brisbane office. He provides a wide range of advice and services to clients regarding employment, safety, investigations and disputes relevant to the workplace.

He is an experienced advocate and has appeared extensively in both State and Federal courts and tribunals in employment, safety and other contentious matters. He has experience across a broad range of industries including construction, water, manufacturing, agricultural, petroleum, gas and mining....

61-7-3233-1248
Alanna Fitzpatrick, Brisbane, Australia, KL Gates Law Firm, employment, workplace safety attorney
Senior Associate

Ms. Fitzpatrick is an experienced employment, industrial relations and workplace safety lawyer.

She is experienced in dealing with a wide range of employment matters including executive employment issues, performance management, grievances, disciplinary matters, discrimination and termination of employment. Ms. Fitzpatrick has a particular focus on assisting employers to manage ill and injured employees and restraint of trade matters. 

61.7.3233.1251