In brief - Queensland Government to bring the resources and petroleum and gas industries in line with the present work health and safety (WHS) laws in Queensland

The Government has introduced new laws covering coal and metalliferous mines, quarries and petroleum and gas operations, which will impose an offence of industrial manslaughter in similar terms to the WHS laws.

The new offence of industrial manslaughter will carry a maximum penalty for an employer body corporate of 100,000 penalty units. For an individual, the maximum penalty will be 20 years' imprisonment. 

The offence states, in coal mining:

An employer of a coal mine commits an offence if:

(a) a coal mine worker-

(i) dies in the course of carrying out work at the coal mine; or

(ii) is injured in the course of carrying out work at the coal mine and later dies; and

(b) the employer's conduct causes the death of the coal mine worker; and

(c) the employer is negligent about causing the death of the coal mine worker by the conduct.

A senior officer of an employer of a coal mine commits the same offence if the senior officer's conduct, being negligent, causes the death of the coal mine worker.

A senior officer of an employer for a coal mine is defined as:

An executive officer of the corporation; or

The holder of an executive position in relation to the employer who makes, or takes part in making, decisions affecting all, or a substantial part, of the employer's functions. 

The above position of senior officer in a mining environment has not been considered by the courts to determine to which level of management it will be applied. It is therefore recommended that managers within the mining management team have an effective WHS Due Diligence system in place to ensure the employer is meeting its safety obligations

The new laws are expressed in the same terms for metalliferous mining and quarrying operations and the petroleum and gas industry. The penalties against individuals are 20 years' jail and fines exceeding $13 million against the corporate employer.

Victoria's new manslaughter laws commencing 1 July

Victoria has introduced new industrial manslaughter laws which are set to commence on 1 July 2020. The new laws carry a maximum penalty of fines of up to $16.5 million for duty holders and up to 20 years in jail for individuals.

It is recommended that a safety health check be conducted on your business operations to ensure that the link between the safety policy and the workers at the coal face is operating to ensure everyone is safe.

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.

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