Industrial manslaughter laws by state

An employer may be liable for a worker's injury or death, particularly when it occurs in the workplace. In cases like this, you may potentially be responsible for workplace manslaughter penalties. The Australian industrial manslaughter laws vary considerably between the states. The law is intended to make sure that workplaces are better than before. The way occupational manslaughter offences occur and the efficiency of work health and safety services is central to the legislation. This will avoid workplace injuries and serious fines from being sustained.

Work Health and Safety
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3
 Min read
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November 6, 2022

This article describes the industrial manslaughter offences and punishments in each state.

Industrial Manslaughter in Australia

New South Wales

The death of a worker at work can constitute manslaughter in New South Wales. All that was listed above points to gross negligence or reckless actions The offences apply if an employer is criminally incompetent or careless in violating a health and safety obligation owed to a worker and exposes the worker to a risk of death or serious injury or illness. An person could face all penalties and a body corporate could face 34,630 penalty units (currently $3,809,300).

Victoria

The occupational manslaughter offences apply in Victoria when an employer negligently violates a health and safety obligation owed to a worker and causes the death of that worker.The maximum penalty is 25 years imprisonment for an individual or 100,000 penalty units (currently $16,522,000) for a body corporate.

Queensland

The industrial manslaughter offences apply in Queensland. It happens when an employer negligently causes the death (or injury and then death) of a worker while the worker is carrying out work for the company. Exhibits A and B are examples of negligence leading to death. The maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment for a person or 100,000 penalty units (currently $13,345,000) for a body corporate. The Queensland District Court recently sentenced an auto wrecking company for industrial manslaughter, the result of their worker's death. The Court levied a $3 million dollar fine on the corporation. The sentence includes a suspended ten-month imprisonment period for the CEO of the firm, as well as the directors. When an employer negligently or recklessly causes the death of a worker in the course of the worker's job, the employer is responsible for the entire amount of damages and subject to imprisonment for up to 20 years. This is currently $320,000 for a person or $1,620,000 for a body corporate, or both.A court can also request a corporation who is guilty of an industrial manslaughter offence to:publicise the offence, the deaths or any penalties imposed (e.g. advertise on television or in a daily newspaper);notify certain people of the offence, the deaths or any penalties imposed (e.g. publish a notice in an annual report or distribute a notice to shareholders of the company); orcarry out a project for the public benefit (e.g. develop and operate a community service).

Northern Territory

The industrial manslaughter offences apply in the Northern Territory when an employer intentionally and recklessly or negligently breaches a health and safety duty owed to a worker and causes the death of that worker.The maximum penalty is life imprisonment for an individual or 65,000 penalty units (currently $10,270,000) for a body corporate.Western AustraliaA new bill is currently being considered by the Western Australia state parliament and will likely pass into law soon. The bill proposes two distinct charges for occupational manslaughter when an employer breaches a health and safety obligation owed to a worker and causes the worker's death, or when the employer fails to maintain a safe workplace and causes the worker's death. The maximum punishment for a felony is 20 years in jail and a $5,000,000 fine for an individual, and a $10,000,000 fine for a corporate agency. The simple offence includes failing to comply with a health and safety obligation owed to a worker and causing the death of the worker. The maximum penalty for a 'easy' offence is 10 years imprisonment and a $2,500,000 fine for an individual or a $5,000,000 fine for a body corporate.

South Australia and Tasmania

South Australia and Tasmania are not currently preparing to enact specific industrial manslaughter legislation.Considerations for EmployersIn light of the stringent penalties for an industrial manslaughter offence, you should:understand the industrial manslaughter laws in your state and keep up to date with any changes in the law;support the senior officers and managers in your company to understand and comply with their health and safety duties;review and update your work health and safety policies and procedures to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and deaths;regularly conduct training sessions and provide information to workers to insure everyone is aware of their safety risks and obligations;ensure that the induction programme for new workers covers relevant safety matters;prepare and maintain good records on work health and safety matters and incidents and review those records to identify any patterns and areas of risk;take a proactive approach to safety matters; andfoster a culture within your business of taking safety issues seriously.

Western Australia

Western Australia is in the process of adopting the Model WHS Harmonisation laws and will commence in 2021.

Key Takeaways

Employers can be found guilty of industrial manslaughter if you negligently cause the death of a worker in your business. Maximum sentences for industrial manslaughter vary in different jurisdictions. Corporations and people may be fined for posing a danger to the public. To prevent workplace deaths and injuries, you should take constructive steps such as fully knowing the industrial manslaughter offences, communicating work health and safety policies and procedures to staff, and maintaining clear records of safety matters.

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