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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.
Under the Act, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) commits an offence of industrial manslaughter if:
The maximum penalty for a person found guilty of industrial manslaughter is 20 years’ imprisonment.
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 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.
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.
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