South Australia Joins Queensland in Taking a Tough Stand on Industrial Manslaughter

Heightened Accountability in Workplace Safety,

by Clayton Cook, TP Human Capital 30/11/23

South Australia has recently taken a decisive step to fortify workplace safety laws by criminalizing industrial manslaughter. This pivotal change, realized through the Work Health and Safety (Industrial Manslaughter) Amendment Bill 2023, amends the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 to impose severe penalties for gross negligence leading to workplace fatalities. Under this new legislation, individuals may face up to 20 years in prison, while organizations could incur fines as high as $18 million.

Industrial Relations Minister Kyam Maher of South Australia articulated the intent behind this legislation: to hold operators accountable for reckless or gross negligence concerning workers’ health and safety. This move aligns South Australia with other regions, including Queensland, that have acknowledged the gravity of workplace safety breaches.

Queensland’s legislation, enacted on October 23, 2017, sets a similar tone in ensuring workplace safety. Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Electrical Safety Act 2002, and the Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011, Queensland criminalized negligent actions by a PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) or a senior officer leading to a worker’s death. The penalties in Queensland, although slightly lower than in South Australia, are substantial, with up to 20 years imprisonment for individuals and $10 million fines for corporations.

Both states have emphasized the role of senior officers and PCBUs in maintaining safety standards, with a focus on fostering a culture of safety management from the top down. This approach reflects a broader trend across Australian states, moving towards heightened accountability and responsibility for business owners and managers regarding their workers’ health and safety.

The passage of these laws in South Australia and Queensland signals a significant shift in the way workplace fatalities are addressed legally. It underscores an evolving landscape where workplace safety is not just a regulatory requirement but a moral and now legal obligation for those at the helm of businesses.

These legislative changes in South Australia and Queensland represent a growing recognition across Australia of the need for stringent measures to prevent workplace fatalities. The emphasis is clear: workplace safety is a top priority, and those in positions of authority within organizations are expected to uphold the highest standards of care. As industries adapt to this legal landscape, the message is unambiguous – negligence leading to workplace fatalities is not just a breach of safety standards; it is a criminal offense that carries severe consequences.

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