Proposed industrial manslaughter laws welcomed in Victoria

29 October 2019
Maurice Blackburn has welcomed tougher workplace safety laws announced by the Andrews Labor Government that will make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence.

The offence, announced today by Attorney General Jill Hennessey, will fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and will apply to employers, self-employed people and anyone considered ‘officers’ of the employers.

The proposed legislation will also apply when an employer’s negligent conduct causes the death of a member of the public, ensuring that all Victorians are safe in, and around, workplaces.

Employers who negligently cause a workplace death will face fines of up to $16.5 million and individuals will face up to 20 years’ in jail.

“These new laws will hold employers to account for putting workers’ lives at risk, and no longer will negligent systems of work be tolerated in this state,” said Maurice Blackburn workplace injury lawyer Azmeena Hussain.

“Already this year, 20 people have gone to work and not come home to their partners and families. All Victorian employers should now be aware that if they don’t put safety first they will be held to account.”

The latest workplace tragedy involved a man aged in his 50s who was crushed in machinery at Delacombe on the fringes of Ballarat this morning.

“As a workplace safety lawyer who has acted for families whose loved ones have died at work, I know only too well the impact losing a loved one in preventable circumstances can have,” Ms Hussain said.

“This is something no one should have to endure, so these new laws should be commended.”

Ms Hussain’s client, Lana Cormie, also congratulated the government on the proposed laws.

Dr Cormie’s husband Charlie Howkins, a devoted father-of-two, was killed alongside workmate Jack Brownlee in a 3.2 metre trench collapse on a Ballarat construction site in March last year that could have been avoided.

“Perhaps Charlie and Jack and all the other people who have lost their lives at unsafe workplaces haven’t died in vain now that the government has listened to our calls for tougher workplace safety laws and more reforms moving forward,” Dr Cormie said.

“We’re held account in other areas of life such as whenever we driver on our roads, for example, and if we do the wrong thing we’re penalised accordingly. So it’s about time that those in power at workplaces be held accountable for unsafe practices that result in the loss of life.”

Under the proposed law, WorkSafe Victoria will investigate the new offence using their powers under the OHS Act to ensure employers can be prosecuted.

Media inquiries: Andrea Petrie at Maurice Blackburn on 0412 655 264 or apetrie@mauriceblackburn.com.au

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