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Queensland’s first conviction for industrial manslaughter

Regional news

Queensland’s first conviction for industrial manslaughter

Regional news
Earlier this year, an individual was sentenced to five years imprisonment for industrial manslaughter.

This is the first time an individual has been prosecuted and jailed since the offence was introduced under the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’) in 2017.

The legislation

Under the Act, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) commits an offence of industrial manslaughter if:

  • A worker dies (or later dies) in the course of carrying out work for the business or undertaking;
  • The PCBU’s conduct causes the death of the worker; and
  • The PCBU is negligent about causing the death of the worker by the conduct.

The maximum penalty for a person found guilty of industrial manslaughter is 20 years’ imprisonment.

Summary of the case

The District Court of Queensland heard the case of an individual business owner who was charged with the death of his friend who was helping him in his electric repair business.

The victim, who was not an employee of the business, was helping the business owner unload a generator from a truck using a forklift. The generator fell from the forklift, crushing the victim who sustained fatal injuries.

The business owner was found to have caused his friends death by negligently operating the forklift unlicensed, overloading the forklift, and not having any documented health and safety procedures in his business.

In order for the individual to be guilty of industrial manslaughter, the jury were required to be satisfied that:

  • The victim was a “worker” at the business;
  • The victim died in the course of carrying out work for the business;
  • The business owner caused the victim’s death; and
  • The business owner’s negligence caused the victim’s death.

The jury found that each of the above elements were true and accordingly the business owner was sentenced to a five-year jail term, however, he will only be required to serve 18 months before being released.

The case highlights the broad definition of worker that includes a volunteer if they carry out work in any capacity for a PCBU. In this case, even though it was the business owner’s friend who was lending a hand, they were still captured as a worker under the Act.

Key takeaways

It is critical for businesses to always maintain safety documentation and procedures to ensure compliance and avoid injuries and fatalities in the workplace. As this case highlights, this applies even when working within your business with family and friends.

HIA’s Safety Services team provides consultancy and solutions to ensure you have the correct systems and processes in place to best protect your staff, PCBUs, subcontractors, clients, friends, family, and your business.

To find out more, contact HIA’s Safety Services team.

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