HR Tips & Answers

Industrial manslaughter – what are the consequences?

Industrial Manslaughter laws are in place, and they will only become stronger in the future – so how are you ensuring your employees are working safely and returning home at night?

It is your responsibility as an employer to ensure your employees safety and you need to know your obligations to keep you and your business out of court or at the very least from coping a hefty fine and damage to your reputation.

Industrial manslaughter legislation has now been passed in five Australian states, including Victoria. We are now starting to see this legislation bear its teeth in recent court rulings.

Here’s a recent example of an Industrial Manslaughter case and the outcomes for those involved.

Employer jailed for Workplace death.

A recent case in Western Australia has seen a Company Director sentenced to 2 years and 2 months in prison, the Company fined $605,000 and the Director also fined $2,350 for operating a crane without a licence.

WA WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh told the ABC, ‘this should act as a “significant deterrent” and be a “moment of awakening” for employers who don’t prioritise Health and Safety’.

Won’t happen to you so you say!  This man was not a harden criminal, just a hard-working Director that didn’t spend enough time ensuring the Health and Safety of his employees. In fact, the Court said, “his lack of systems, processes and care amounted to gross negligence”.

What happened?  Two workers were installing a roof when a strong wind picked up and a roofing sheet came loose, knocking both workers off the roof.  One fell more than nine metres to his death.

The Director was not there so why was he liable?  He simply did not do everything reasonably practicable to ensure the workers were not exposed to harm due to the hazard of working at heights.

The correct licences for working at heights were not held by the employees or Director.  One of the workers did not even have a construction induction training certificate.  This was a tragic accident however ultimately the case was about people working at heights without correct safety measures in place.  Are you confident that you have all the correct licences, permits, policies and processes in place at your business to ensure your employees are working safely?

Want to know more or need help ensuring you have the correct processes, systems and policies in place and up to date?  Call, email or visit our Office to discuss your needs.

Don’t forget we’re here to help, so give the team at WorkBetter a call 02 6009 1000.

Published: Thursday, February 10th, 2022

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