In May 2020, the Queensland Government passed industrial manslaughter laws for the resources sector.
Employing over 50,000 people directly and supporting a further 2.13 million jobs, the resources sector is a significant part of Queensland’s economy.
However, mining can be dangerous. 47 workers have lost their lives on Queensland mine and quarry sites in the past twenty years. Eight of these deaths have been in the past two years.
We discuss what these new laws are, and why they’re so important for workers.
What are the new mine safety laws?
The new laws are designed to make sure senior company officers put the safety of their workers above profits, in order to reduce injuries or fatalities on site.
The most important change is that worker deaths due to negligence can be prosecuted as industrial manslaughter. While industrial manslaughter laws have existed for other industries for a number of years, these laws now extend include the resources sector.
The maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter under these new laws is up to $13 million and 20 years’ jail. The previous maximum jail term was just three years.
These laws bring workplace protections for mining and quarry workers into line with other workers in the state, establishing one of the toughest work health and safety regimes in Australia.
Why are the laws needed?
Unfortunately, deaths on Queensland mine and quarry sites are not uncommon. Serious injuries and accidents have been on a steady rise over the past five years. Contractors are most at risk.
Plus, more than 100 Queensland workers have developed coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung) or silicosis due to exposure to dangerous dust at work.
Despite the industry’s risks, we firmly believe that every worker has the right to come home safe. The more dangerous an industry, the more workers should expect their safety is put first.
Unfortunately, we know that this isn’t the case, and mines aren’t getting safer in the long run. In fact, most injuries and fatalities are caused by everyday failings, such as lack of training or poor supervision.
Over the past twenty years, decisions made by supervisors or by senior management directly contributed to many fatalities – so those people need to be held accountable.
Everyone has the right to come home safe
It’s our hope that with these new laws, the resources sector will re-evaluate its commitment to the safety of its workers. Better training, better management decisions and better supervision will significantly reduce the likelihood of fatalities.
To find out more about the new laws, head to the Queensland Government’s website.
If your workplace doesn’t prioritise your safety, speak to your union rep or seek legal advice.