Industrial Manslaughter: “Workplace Health and Safety Standards Should be a No.1 Priority”

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As many may have heard, the Queensland government recently passed legislation to introduce the new offence of industrial manslaughter. The Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (WHS Amendment Act) has been passed in response to the Eagle Farm and Dreamworld tragedies, and make industrial manslaughter an offence which may attract long prison sentences and hefty fines. 

The Act creates two new offences - a ‘senior officer’ offence and an ‘employer’ offence. These may apply where conduct negligently causes the death of a worker while the worker is ‘carrying out work’ (including when the worker is on a break). The maximum penalties are 20 years imprisonment for a ‘senior officer’, or a $10 million fine for a PCBU. 

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace explained, "In the past, there has been no capacity to ensure that those at the top are responsible for keeping their workplaces safe. However, with these amendments the message is clear: workplace health and safety standards should be a No. 1 priority for senior officers whose decisions can have catastrophic impacts on the safety of workers."

While the Act does not change the existing duties that employers have to ensure the safety of their workers, it is a critical reminder to all businesses to review their safety management systems, check their risk management strategies, and make sure that they understand their obligations. 

While this may seem like an overwhelming task to undertake, it can be a step-by-step process if done within the framework of certification, such as the AZ/NZS 4081 Standard or the Safety Management module of the Talent Engagement StandardThe first step is to contact us and discuss what best suits your business.