Industrial Manslaughter Penalties across Australia vary from state to state and state to territory.
New South Wales
It was announced by the NSW Government on Thursday 19th October 2023, that they will introducing an Industrial Manslaughter Offence into the NSW WHS Legislation sometime during first half of 2024.
At this time NSW has not included the offence of industrial manslaughter in its WHS Act (NSW) amendments , noting though that a workplace death may still constitute manslaughter under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Proposed maximum penalty is 25 years’ imprisonment for an individual and $10,295,000 for a company.
Australian Capital Territory
The crime of industrial manslaughter has existed in the ACT since 2004. In August 2021, legislative amendments were introduced to align the crime with other work safety offences. In the ACT, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) or an officer of a PCBU commits industrial manslaughter if they engage in conduct which breaches a health and safety duty and causes a person’s death. The PCBU or officer must have been reckless or negligent about causing the death.
The maximum penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment for an individual and fines of $16.5 million for a company.
The offence of industrial manslaughter came into effect in the NT on 1 February 2020. A PCBU or an officer of a PCBU commits industrial manslaughter if they intentionally engage in conduct which breaches a health and safety duty and causes the death of an individual to whom the health and safety duty was owed. The PCBU or officer must also be reckless or negligent about the conduct breaching the health and safety duty and causing the death of that individual.
The maximum penalty is imprisonment for life for an individual and fines of $10.2 million for companies.
The offence of industrial manslaughter came into effect in Queensland on 23 October 2017. It is an offence for a PCBU or senior officer to negligently cause the death of a worker, including where a worker is injured carrying out work and later dies.
The maximum penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment for an individual and $10 million for companies.
As introduced and read a first time, 4 May 2022 to the Legislative Council, the bill will create the offence of industrial manslaughter was introduced in a private member’s bill. Under the bill, an employer (or an officer of the employer) would commit the offence if they were in breach of their duty of care and their breach caused the death of a worker. They also had to be ‘recklessly indifferent’ as to whether their conduct would create a substantial risk of serious harm.
Work Health and Safety (Industrial Manslaughter)
Amendment Bill 2022
The draft bill is available for a period of public
consultation till 10th February 2023 prior to legislation being
introduced to Parliament in early 2023. The Government will consider all
feedback received before settling a final Bill in the early half of 2023
(Direct Quote from SafeWork SA)
SafeWork SA news alert has stated that the South Australian
Government has recently released for public comment the draft Health and Safety
(Industrial Manslaughter) Amendment Bill 2022. The Amendment Bill
mentions that the ‘proposed penalties would apply to Company officers or PCBU
who engage in reckless or grossly negligent conduct that causes the death of an
individual to whom a health and safety duty is owed’.
The Bill outlines that industrial manslaughter offences
would be investigated by SafeWork SA and tried in the South Australian
Employment Court. There is also proposed option in the court to find a
defendant guilty of a less serious WHS offence if it is not satisfied the
accused is guilty of manslaughter.
The Bill also outlines Industrial Manslaughter offence would
not be bound to a two-year statute of limitation period.
Penalties Proposed (directly from Work Health and Safety
(Industrial Manslaughter) Amendment Bill 2022)
30A—Industrial manslaughter (Insert)
(a) in the case of an offence committed by an individual as
a person conducting a business or undertaking or as an officer of a person
conducting a business or undertaking—20 years imprisonment.
(b) in the case of an offence committed by a body corporate—$15
The offence of workplace manslaughter came into effect in Victoria on 1 July 2020. A corporation or officer commits the offence of workplace manslaughter if they engage in conduct that is negligent, constitutes a breach of an applicable duty the person owes to another person, and causes the death of that other person.
The elements of the new workplace manslaughter offence are:
- the person charged must be a body corporate or a person who is not an employee or volunteer
- they must have owed the victim a specified duty under the OHS Act
- they breached the duty owed by negligent conduct
- the breach of the duty caused the death of the victim, and
- if the person charged is a natural person they must have acted consciously and voluntarily when breaching the duty owed
If convicted of workplace manslaughter, the following penalties apply (as at 1 July 2020):
- a maximum of 25 years imprisonment for individuals, and
- a maximum fine of $16.5 million for body corporates
These penalties reflect the seriousness of the offence and are designed to help prevent workplace deaths by creating a strong deterrent for organisations and individual officers against breaching their occupational health and safety duties.
A new offence of industrial manslaughter commenced in Western Australia on 31 March 2022 as part of the Work Health and Safety Act 2020. The offence will apply where those who have a duty under the Act have failed to comply with that duty and that failure to comply caused a death. Only PCBU’s (a person conducting a business or undertaking alone or with others, whether or not for profit or gain) and their officers can be charged with industrial manslaughter. A PCBU can be a sole trader, each partner within a partnership, company, unincorporated association, government department or public corporation (including a local or regional government).
The maximum penalty for an individual is 20 years imprisonment and a $5,000,000 fine.
The maximum penalty for a company is a $10,000,000 fine.
Tasmania – Industrial manslaughter is not currently an offence in Tasmania. There are no bills before the Tasmanian Parliament to introduce an industrial manslaughter offence.
Death in the workplace is almost always avoidable. Please review our Safety Services, it could just save a life.
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/
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