New Victorian Workplace manslaughter laws have come into effect from 1 July 2020. The new laws have implemented changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Victoria) particularly those involving industrial or workplace manslaughter. The new laws provide a range of obligations for employers and persons in charge of a business unit PCBU and impose the possibility for a range of penalties including 25 years in prison for individuals and fines of up to $16 million for corporations.
One of the other key changes is that the Worksafe Victoria has broadened the definition of a workplace related fatality or death. New provisions in Victorian legislation will include persons killed on the road while working, suicides attributable to a workplace health and safety failure, deaths from industrial diseases such as silicosis and asbestosis.
Changes were introduced in the Victorian Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019
The term of negligent conduct has also been defined within the newly legislated Act. The Act defines ‘negligent conduct’ as “a great falling short of the standard of care that would have been taken by a reasonable person in the circumstances in which the conduct was engaged in; and a high risk of— (i) death; or (ii) serious injury; or (iii) serious illness
The changes applying to penalties under Victoria’s Occupational Health & Safety Laws make them arguably the toughest work health and safety laws in Australia.
What Victoria’s new health & safety laws mean for employers?
The application of penalties under Victoria’s new health and safety laws will be a matter for the court however, employer’s should be mindful of the potential risks to their business from a successful prosecution.
Safetysure understands that there may be significant difficulty for work health & safety prosecutors to achieve a maximum penalty under the new laws. In essence, the court must find that a person or corporation was negligent in conduct of a work related activity.
Defining a “great falling short” of the standard of care that would have been taken by a reasonable person in the circumstances will present a range of challenges for prosecutors given the absence of successful prosecutions in Australia for negligent conduct. Courts may ultimately consider the impact of a Queensland Case where two Directors were successfully prosecuted after a person died at their workplace while using a forklift.
Nonetheless the changes in Victoria may serve as a deterrent for those who are controlling and managing workplaces.
WorkSafe Chief Executive Colin Radford recently stated “The threat of jail for individuals, or a hefty fine for organisations, should stop those who think it’s ok to put other priorities above the health and safety of their workers in their tracks.”
Why managing critical risks is important?
Any risk in a workplace that presents with critical fatal risks must be identified and managed from both a legal and moral perspective.
Employer’s and managers should clearly understand those critical risks at their workplace . By critical risks we mean hazards that can fatally injure or cause serious work related illnesses at your workplace.
Failure to consider and manage critical risks may expose employers or persons in control of workplaces to the ‘full force’ of the law. Simply turning a ‘blind eye’ to critical hazards in the workplace is simply not an excuse that regulator’s will accept.
What you can do to lessen your exposure to industrial / workplace manslaughter legislation?
Understanding your critical risks is a first step in the process of a line of defense against a workplace injury or illness.
This means identifying what can potentially go wrong at your workplace that could result in a fatality, serious injury or work related illness. This should extend beyond employees to visitors, contractors and other persons who may attend your workplace.
After you understand what the critical risks are, you should work towards developing a strategy to control each one according to established standards and practices for risk control.
Minimising workplace manslaughter exposure should be part of an overall plan for safety
No one ever wants their employees or colleagues to die in a work related accident. Over the years we have met with many CEO’s, managers or supervisors who have been facing a regulatory action. Not one of them expected that they’d be facing a prosecution and they certainly never intended for the employees to be killed or injured in their workplaces.
Unfortunately, many of them didn’t have an in depth understanding of their potential exposure or the risks that existed in their workplaces. By understanding these risks and implementing a plan for safety, CEO’s, managers and supervisors can put context around the risk and implement simple effective strategies for controlling work health & safety risks.
Safetysure works with business Australia wide to help them manage critical risks in workplace. We help business establish risk registers, define critical risks and implement control measures to eliminate or control those risks.
Need to know more? Feel free to give us a call on 1300 087 888 or email us.