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Queensland’s Industrial Manslaughter Legislation; Work Health and Safety Act

Friday, August 31, 2018

On July 1st this year, the offence of industrial manslaughter was implemented in Queensland under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The new provisions make it an offence for a person conducting a business, or a senior officer, to negligently cause the death of a worker.



The legislation is designed to rectify the difficulty faced by prosecutors in establishing corporate criminal responsibility under the Queensland Criminal Code, and comes as a response to recent fatal workplace accidents at theme parks and racecourses.



The offence carries with it a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment or a $10million penalty for a company.



Industrial manslaughter occurs where the following three elements can be proven:


  1. Death (or injury later causing death) occurring in the act of working, which includes during a worker’s break;
  2. A person’s conduct caused the death;
  3. That person was criminally negligent.



A PCBU (‘person conducting a business or undertaking’)  is defined within the legislation and includes sole traders, partnerships, companies, unincorporated associations and government departments.



The new offence will not apply to the mining industry and does not apply to volunteer senior officers and unincorporated associations.



It remains to be seen if the new offence will assist prosecutors in establishing corporate criminal liability or if successful prosecutions will lead to jail sentences or merely pecuniary punishments.



For businesses, it is important to identify who your senior officers are and, more importantly, to assess your safety regulations and procedures to avoid placing employees in a potentially fatal position.