New industrial manslaughter laws in Queensland
New industrial manslaughter laws are now in place across the state. The laws make it an offence for a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), or a senior officer, to negligently cause the death of a worker.
In particular, the offence applies if:
- a worker dies, or is injured and later dies, in the course of carrying out work for the business or undertaking (including during a work break); and
- the PCBU’s, or senior officer’s, conduct cause the death of the worker (i.e. the action or inaction of the PCBU, or senior officer, substantially contributes to the death); and
- the PCBU, or senior officer, is negligent about causing the death of the worker (i.e. the person’s action or inaction departs so far from the standard of care required).
Where a PCBU, or senior officer, commits industrial manslaughter, a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for an individual, or $10M for a body corporate, applies. The laws, which came into effect late last year, are contained in new provisions in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), Electrical Safety Act 2002 (ES Act), and Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011 (SRWA Act).
For the purposes of the industrial manslaughter offence, a PCBU can be a sole trader, a partnership, company, unincorporated association or government department. A senior officer is an executive officer of a corporation or for a non-corporation, being the holder of an executive position who makes, or takes part in making, decisions affecting all, or a substantial part, of a PCBU’s functions.
In determining whether you are a senior officer for the purposes of the industrial manslaughter offence, you should have regard to your position in the organisation and your ability to take part in decisions which affect the organisation as well as your ability to influence how resources are used and what procedures are necessary.
The maximum penalty for the new offence is 20 years imprisonment for an individual, with a maximum fine of $10 million for a corporate offender.The introduction of an industrial manslaughter offence was one of 58 recommendations in the Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. The review followed two tragic workplace incidents at Eagle Farm Racecourse and Dreamworld that cost six people their lives.
More information is at worksafe.qld.gov.au.
- Last updated
- 25 January 2018
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