In brief - Employers, self-employed persons and officers must prepare for tough new laws that make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence
Victoria has just passed legislation which will see workplace manslaughter offences attracting the highest fines in Australia. The date of commencement has yet to be proclaimed but the legislation will commence by July 2020 at the latest.
The Victorian Government has introduced these laws, which are part of the Occupational Health & Safety Act of Victoria, to place obligations upon employers, self-employed persons and officers. It will also place a duty upon the employer's negligent conduct which may cause the death of a member of the public.
The penalties are a jail term of up to 20 years for corporate officers and a maximum fine for bodies corporate of 100,000 penalty units, which currently equates to approximately $16.5 million for negligently causing a workplace death.
Construction company convicted and fined $650,000 after labourer's death
Hefty fines are already being imposed in Victoria for workplace deaths where employers have been found to have breached their duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Just recently a construction company was found guilty in the County Court of failing to maintain a safe working environment and failing to provide instruction.
In February 2016, a 54-year-old worker fell to his death from a platform on the fourth floor of a multi-level apartment being constructed in Carlton. A WorkSafe investigation found that the company had failed to carry out basic safety measures and that the death could have been easily avoided if the workers had been warned about the danger or if the company had made modifications to reduce the risk of fall.
The company was fined $325,000 for each charge.
In December 2016, we reported on the Highest fine ever for a single offence under OHS laws handed down by a Victorian Court, in which a transport company was fined $1 million after pleading guilty to breaching section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act following the death of a stevedore worker in an horrific workplace incident.
This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2020.