The states of NSW and WA have made some progress on industrial manslaughter laws.
New South Wales
In 2021, the NSW Government introduced an industrial manslaughter bill. The bill has passed the Legislative Council and is currently before the NSW Legislative Assembly. Under the bill, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) or senior officer commits an industrial manslaughter offence if:
- a worker or other person dies, or is injured in the workplace and later dies; and
- the PCBU or senior officer:
- by their conduct caused the death of the person; and
- engaged in the conduct without reasonable excuse; and
- was grossly negligent or reckless in causing the death of the worker or other person, by the conduct.
Under the bill, the proposed maximum penalty for an individual is 25 years’ imprisonment and for a company, 100,000 penalty units (which currently equates to a fine of more than $10 million).
WA’s Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WA), which includes an industrial manslaughter offence, is due to come into effect this year.
The new offence applies to those with a work health and safety (WHS) duty where their failure to comply with that duty caused a death. Only PCBUs and their officers can be charged with industrial manslaughter.
To establish the offence, it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt that the person knew their conduct was likely to cause the death of, or serious harm to, an individual and they acted in disregard of that likelihood.
The maximum penalty for an individual is 20 years’ imprisonment and a $5 million fine, and a $10 million fine for a company.
By Kelly Godfrey