Thinking | 15 September 2019

Industrial Manslaughter in WA

On Tuesday 27 August 2019, Western Australian Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston announced plans to introduce two industrial manslaughter offences to Parliament before the end of the year.

The more serious “class one” offence will carry a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment for individuals who contribute to the deaths of employees by breaking workplace safety rules. The “class two” offence which relates to negligent behaviour will carry a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment for an individual. Corporate offenders can be fined up to $10 million for either offence.

WA Premier, Mark McGowan stated that “[t]he death of one worker is one too many, it’s time we introduce industrial manslaughter laws to make sure Western Australians are protected at work”.

The proposed industrial manslaughter laws are based on the recommendations of a 2018 independent review by Safe Work Australia into the national model WHS laws conducted by Ms Marie Boland. The “class one” offence is similar to the industrial manslaughter laws in the ACT (introduced in 2004) and Queensland (introduced in 2017) which also carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment for an individual.  In the ACT the maximum penalties are $320,000 for an individual and $1.62 million for a body corporate while in Queensland the maximum penalty is $10 million for a body corporate. There have not yet been any prosecutions under these provisions however in 2018 a prosecution was commenced in the ACT and remains on foot. Similar laws are also expected to be introduced in Victoria and Northern Territory soon whereas in New South Wales nothing is currently proposed.

There has already been a criticism of the proposed industrial manslaughter offences, with WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Chris Rodwell saying the manslaughter laws wouldn't prevent workplace deaths but would foster "a culture of blame" and damage industry instead.  Similarly, Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Paul Everingham has noted that the regulators already have significant powers under existing legislation.

Meanwhile, CFMMEU State secretary Mick Buchan commended the proposal stating recent penalties "are only a fraction of the money that companies can gouge by cutting corners [on] safety… So penalties must directly impact the life of [employers'] decision-makers. When an employer or site manager or company director know that they can go to prison for exposing workers to danger then the game immediately changes.”

Contact

Oliver Jankowsky

Partner & Head of International Practice

Ed Paton

Partner & Head of SE Asia Practice

Eugene Chen

Partner & Head of China Practice

Melanie Smith

Director - Business Development, Marketing and Communications

Natalie Bannister

Partner & Commercial National Practice Leader

Rhett Slocombe

Partner & Insurance National Practice Leader

Katie McKenzie

DIRECTOR - PEOPLE & CULTURE

James Bull

Special Counsel and Head of Frank

Melanie James

People & Culture Manager

Jacqui Barrett

Partner & Head of US Practice

Paul O’Donnell

Consultant & Head of Energy

Christopher Brown

Partner & Head of UK Practice

Lauren Parrant

Senior People & Culture Advisor, as at 1 July 2022

Melinda Woledge

Marketing & Communications Manager

Jasmine Koh

Senior Associate and Head of Frank

Alison Choy Flannigan

Partner & Leader, Health & Community

Billie Kerkez

Manager – Smarter Recovery Solutions

Peter Jones

Senior Commercial Counsel

You might be also interested in...

Employment & Workplace Relations | 15 Sep 2019

District Court chips away at discretion for clinical judgement

The District Court of Western Australia has found in favour of patient Sandy Lazarevski and held that the defendant North Metropolitan Health Service (NMHS) breached its duty of care by failing to administer a standard blood test and detect an eventuating heart attack despite finding that the possibility of a heart attack on the patient’s presentation was low.

Employment & Workplace Relations | 12 Sep 2019

Social media in the dock: High Court view on employee’s tweets

On 7 August 2019, the High Court handed down a decision finding that a commonwealth employee’s employment was lawfully terminated due to disciplinary action taken against her for broadcasting anonymously more than 9,000 tweets which were critical of her then-employer (the Department of Immigration), other employees and government and opposition immigration policies generally.