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Northern Territory industrial manslaughter laws passed

November 27, 2019

Yesterday, the Northern Territory Parliament passed the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Amendment Bill 2019. This Bill introduces a new offence of industrial manslaughter into the Territories work, health and safety laws. The commencement date for the new offence is yet to be confirmed.

Under the new laws a person commits the offence of industrial manslaughter if they have a health and safety duty and they intentionally engage in conduct that breaches that duty which causes the death of an individual. The person must have been reckless or negligent about the conduct breaching the health and safety duty and causing the death.

The offence applies to both individuals and corporate entities with maximum penalties of ‘imprisonment for life’ for individuals and 65,000 penalty units (currently equating to $10,205,000) for bodies corporate.

Members may recall the Territory Government flagged its intent to proceed with the introduction of the offence after it was recommended by the final report into the review of the Territory’s workplace regulator, NT WorkSafe released in March this year.

In October, HIA made submissions to the Economic Policy Scutiny Committee opposing the Bill. HIA has consistently argued the offence of manslaughter (whether the death occurs in the workplace or in a non-industrial context) is a matter of criminal law.

Prosecutions for industrial manslaughter and other criminal offences should take place in the criminal law jurisdiction, be conducted by public prosecutors (not safety officials) and be heard before a proper criminal court with a criminal onus or proof and normal rights of appeal.

Further, workplace incidents that result in fatalities are already adequately covered under the existing offences in the work, health and safety laws and under existing criminal law.

Regrettably, the Economic Policy Scrutiny Committee supported the Bill.

Any members with concerns about the new industrial manslaughter laws can contact HIA’s Workplace Services on (08) 8995 6303.