On Tuesday November 26, 2019 Victoria became the third Australian jurisdiction to enshrine the offence of industrial manslaughter in law, with an Amendment Bill (and the country's highest work health and safety fine) passing Parliament without any changes.
The Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019 [pdf], now awaiting royal assent, will commence on a day to be proclaimed or 1 July 2020 at the latest. It introduces maximum fines of 100,000 penalty units (which at the moment means $16,522,000) for bodies corporate, and jail terms of up to 20 years for company officers, who negligently cause the death of a worker or member of the public.
The Andrews Labor Government Bill was introduced into the Lower House on 29 October, and it was subsequently revealed that the new laws could capture practices that "fail to create a culture of compliance", actions that cause a mental illness that leads to death, and negligent conduct or fatalities that occur in other jurisdictions. The Government also announced a $10 million package to increase WorkSafe Victoria's ability to investigate and prosecute workplace manslaughter offences, and plans to crack down on employers that attempt to cover up safety failings after a fatality.
The laws passed the Legislative Council at almost midnight with the support of MLCs Rodney Barton (Transport Matters Party), Jeff Bourman (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party), Dr Catherine Cumming (Independent), Clifford Hayes (Sustainable Australia), Andy Meddick (Animal Justice Party), Fiona Patten (Fiona Patten's Reason Party) and Dr Samantha Ratnam (Victorian Greens). We thank these cross-benchers for listening to the families of workers killed at work and union member who met with them to discuss the importance of these laws.
Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy said, “We promised we’d make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence and that’s exactly what we’ve done – because there is nothing more important than every worker coming home safe every day.”
A summary of the Bill will be coming soon.
Last amended December 2019