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Workplace Manslaughter campaign

February 03, 2020

In a surprise announcement, the Victorian government has introduced legislation to increase the maximum penalty for manslaughter and similar offences. This includes the not yet commenced workplace manslaughter offence which is proposed to now have a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.  it is disappointing that the government has introduced this increase without consultation and before the new offence has commenced.

The Victorian government has also launched a media campaign to publicise the new workplace manslaughter laws starting on 1 July 2020.  The construction industry is one of three industries that will be the focus of this campaign, along with agriculture and manufacturing.

The message from the government is simplified as “you don’t take care of your employees at work and ensure they return home safe“, the government will “make sure you are responsible for the consequences“ and “workplace manslaughter will be a jailable offence”. 

This simple message however does not acknowledge the more likely outcomes after a workplace death.  Not every workplace death will result in an employer going to jail for workplace manslaughter.  The prosecution will have to prove that the employer failed to comply with their OH&S duties, caused the death of the employee and was criminally negligent.  Employees killed by the criminal negligence of other employees without employer culpability will also not result in prosecutions.  It is expected that only cases of gross negligence by employers will result in charges and possible jail terms.

None the less, the government campaign is a reminder of the importance of ensuring that you not only have suitable OH&S systems and procedures in place but that you also use them, regularly review them, and also follow up any safety issues as they arise. 

HIA believes no employer wants an employee to not get home safely.  This alone is a good enough reason for HIA members to invest in the time, effort and expense to ensure your OH&S systems are up to date and fit for your business. 

If you have any questions about the new offence or want advice on improving your OHS& systems and procedures please call HIA on 1300 650 620.