Victoria readies for industrial manslaughter laws

The Victorian parliament is preparing to debate an industrial manslaughter bill which would mean employers found to have negligently caused a workplace death could face fines of up to $16.5m with individuals facing up to 20 years in jail.

Under the proposed laws, the offence will fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and will apply to employers, self-employed people and ‘officers’ of the employer. It will also apply when an employer’s negligent conduct causes the death of a member of the public.

Under the proposed laws, WorkSafe Victoria will investigate the new offence using their powers under the OHS Act to ensure employers can be prosecuted.

The Victorian government says as many as 30 people are killed in workplaces across the state each year with 19 people having already died this year.

“The Andrews Labor Government is delivering on its election promise to make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence because no person should die at work,” Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy said in a statement.

“All workers deserve a safe workplace and the proposed laws send a clear message to employers that putting people’s lives at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated.

“I cannot begin to imagine the pain felt by the families who have lost a loved one at work.”

It will mean WorkSafe Victoria will investigate the new offence using their powers under the OHS Act to ensure employers can be prosecuted.

Workforce Guardian general manager Charles Watson

In a bid to help prepare printing business owners for the expected law changes Charles Watson, general manager of human resources and employment law service, Workforce Guardian, has issued a handy thought list for business owners.

Thought list for business owners:

  • The Commonwealth, states and territories are responsible for implementing, regulating and enforcing WHS laws in their jurisdictions.
  • Although most jurisdictions have implemented model laws, there are substantial variations. Businesses operating across state and territory borders should be aware of their obligations within each jurisdiction.
  • If your business operates in Victoria, consider the effect of the new laws should they be legislated. This includes whether your current WHS systems and processes adequately address the issues, and what amendments are required.
  • Consider, what information will need to be distributed within the business to explain the new responsibilities and potential liabilities, particularly to those individuals who are deemed ‘officers’ of the business entity or otherwise responsible individuals with applicable duties.

Watson points out that each state has a different position when it comes to industrial manslaughter and how it is penalised.

“The ACT introduced industrial manslaughter provisions into their Crimes Act back in 2004, while Queensland amended their workplace health and safety laws by introducing industrial manslaughter provisions which took effect in 2017. Only one prosecution has been commenced under those provisions and is currently on foot,” Watson told Sprinter.

“By contrast to those jurisdictions, the NSW government has recently rejected introducing workplace manslaughter laws, with the government stating it would seek to prioritise the targeting of risky work practices. The Northern Territory and Western Australia are still considering the issue, with no formal position on the direction they will take.”

For more information about industrial relations and to ensure your business is complying with the rules, please contact Charles Watson at Workforce Guardian at

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