Page 54 - Print21 Magazine Jan-Feb 21
P. 54

     Although rarer than ever, print is sadly not immune from workplace fatalities. Charles Watson, general manager IR, policy, and governance at The Real Media Collective says print business directors need
to be up to speed with
their responsibilities and liabilities – which vary from state to state – with the prospect of decades
in jail and multi-million- dollar fines on the table for those who don’t.
Industrial manslaughter laws in Australia:
what they mean for your business
Australia has generally progressed down the
path of implementing model workplace health and safety laws across all jurisdictions. The aim has been to create a federally harmonised and nationally consistent WHS framework across all jurisdictions. However, we remain a federation of states and territories who, as we have seen this year, will go their own way on certain issues.
With the Western Australian government recently passing industrial manslaughter laws, three states, plus the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory now have specific but differing laws on the issue. Businesses should consider their particular state and territory laws and any implications and compliance requirements. To that end, let’s review the differences.
Under Victorian laws applicable from 1 July this year, senior company officers can be individually
Industrial manslaughter: New workplace laws hold business directors accountable
liable where they are negligent in failing to take reasonable steps
on workplace safety to prevent fatalities. A director who is convicted of workplace manslaughter faces
a maximum penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment and fines
up to $16.5m. Interestingly, retrospective negligent conduct before the legislation commenced may be considered in a prosecution, if the organisation’s omission
to amend unsafe work policies causes a workplace fatality post- commencement.
Despite strong opposition from business groups about how such
laws could affect the national harmonisation of workplace health and safety, Queensland introduced industrial manslaughter laws in 2017. Queensland law on this issue can expose company executives and senior officers to a maximum of 20 years imprisonment if their negligent conduct causes or substantially
contributes to the death of a worker. Companies can be penalised up
to $10m. Further, the defence of accident is not be available.
Australian Capital
The ACT was the first jurisdiction
to introduce specific industrial manslaughter provisions. However, the offences form part of the ACT Crimes Act rather than the WHS Act. Under these criminal laws, a senior officer of an employer who recklessly or negligently causes the death of a worker may be imprisoned for up to 20 years and or be fined up to $1.6m.
Northern Territory
In February 2020 the Northern Territory government enacted industrial manslaughter laws into the workplace health and safety legislation. Essentially an officer of the employer is guilty under those laws if they have a health and safety duty and intentionally engages
       54   Print21 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

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