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Queensland ‘Industrial Manslaughter’ Laws Coming Soon

by | 23 May 2017 | Workplace Health & Safety, Workplace News

In news, surely to send shivers through employers in high risk industries, the Queensland Government has announced that it will introduce a new offence of “negligence causing death”.

The announcement is also likely to cause consternation at board level, with company directors wanting to know their potential liability in the event of a workplace death.

The Announcement

The Queensland government announced the proposed “negligence causing death” laws late last week.

The announcement followed an interim recommendation from the government’s Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Best Practice Review of WHS

The Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (Best Practice Review) was announced on 5 April 2017 by the Qld government in response to fatalities at Dreamworld, Gold Coast and Eagle Farm, Brisbane in 2016.

A blast from the past?

Some may recall that this is not the first time that an industrial manslaughter type of offence has been proposed in Queensland.

In September 2000, the then Beattie Labor Government released a Dangerous Industrial Conduct Discussion Paper which canvassed offences, at the time similar to those in the ACT industrial manslaughter legislation.

The 2000 Discussion Paper sought public input into a proposed new offence for the Queensland Criminal Code called ‘dangerous industrial conduct’ to cover both individuals and corporations.

In the end, industrial manslaughter legislation did not eventuate, with the issue brought to an end by the dissolution of parliament for the 2001 State election.

What will it mean for employers?

Little detail is known beyond the media release at present, so it will be a case of ‘watch this space.’

Acumen Lawyers is keeping a watching brief on the new legislation and further updates will be provided as information comes to hand.

Employers and their board members are likely to be asking:

  • What will be our liability following a workplace death?
  • Will we be exposed to lengthy imprisonment if charged and convicted?
  • How far down the management chain could the legislation reach?
  • Will our current WHS systems be sufficient protection?

Interstate employers are sure to be keen observers also, given a possible flow on effect to other state jurisdictions that seek to mirror the Queensland legislation.

Acumen Lawyers can assist employers who are uncertain about their work health and safety compliance, with safety audits, WHS systems and specialist safety advice.

About the author

Brad PetleyBrad Petley, is the Principal of Acumen Lawyers, a boutique employment and safety legal practice based in Brisbane, but happily solving workplace issues for clients Australia-wide.

Brad is a QLS Accredited Specialist in Workplace Relations Law.

This publication is intended only to provide a summary of the subject matter covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No reader should act or rely on the basis of any matter contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice.

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