News 24 May 2019

Victorian employers to face 20 years jail under new workplace manslaughter laws

The Victorian Government is introducing new workplace manslaughter laws, as part of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), imposing fines of around $16 million and up to 20 years jail for employers responsible for negligently causing death.

A fact sheet detailing key elements of the new laws is available here.

Key elements of the proposed laws are:

  • The new offence would apply to a person other than an employee who holds duties under Part 3 of the OHS Act and their officers.
  • The offence is broad and will apply to the death of anyone who is owed a duty under Part 3 of the OHS Act. This includes employees, contractors and members of the public (such as bystanders).
  • A maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment would apply to individuals (this is the same maximum penalty as manslaughter) and a maximum fine of 100,000 penalty units (around $16 million) would apply to companies.
  • The offence also allows for direct liability of an organisation, without pinpointing individual fault.
  • The organisation’s negligence may arise in different ways such as the accumulation of conduct by different individuals, or based on the unwritten rules, policies, or work practices of the organisation.
  • Conduct is ‘negligent’ if it involves a great falling short of the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances and involves a high risk of death or serious injury. It is a test that looks at what a reasonable person would have done in the circumstances.
  • For organisations, it would not be necessary to pinpoint negligence by one particular person. A death may occur because of one person’s negligence or because of the acts of a number of people.
  • An organisation may be found to be negligent where its unwritten rules, policies, work practices or conduct implicitly authorise non-compliance, or fail to create a culture of compliance, consistent with the organisation’s responsibilities and duties under the OHS Act.

It is vital that the Government gets these laws right. The new laws must have safety as their number one objective and be workable, proportionate, fair, support continuing collaboration on safety and avoid unintended outcomes.

We have prepared a letter to enable members to express their concern regarding the new laws and urge the Government to get them right. Click here to review and send this letter to the Attorney-General The Hon Jill Hennessy MP.

Alternatively, you can write to the Attorney-General directly at Attorney-General@justice.vic.gov.au

If you have further enquiries about the proposed laws please email the Policy and Advocacy Team.

Media Contact

All media enquiries may be directed to the Media and Communications Manager

03 8662 5310

0423 883 945

media@victorianchamber.com.au

For all other enquiries please contact the Victorian Chamber on 03 8662 5333

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