The Safety Institute of Australia has applauded a Senate Committee’s recommendation to introduce industrial manslaughter laws nationally, and has called on state and federal governments to act quickly and show bipartisan support for their implementation.
Following the introduction of industrial manslaughter provisions in Queensland in 2017, there has been ongoing national debate regarding their utility and effectiveness. Earlier this month, the Senate Education and Employment References Committee handed down a 135-page report into the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia.
Although it made acknowledgement of opposing views, the Committee ultimately recommended that Safe Work Australia work with government to introduce a nationally consistent industrial manslaughter offence into the model WHS laws (see related article).
The report said it was “absolutely necessary” for corporate entities to be held accountable for their actions, including facing prosecution for industrial manslaughter for the worst examples of corporate or individual behaviour.
“For those few organisations that wilfully flaunt the existing WHS arrangements and whose negligent actions result in a catastrophic outcome the committee believes it is entirely warranted that serious consequences flow.”
Safety Institute of Australia Chairman Patrick Murphy acknowledged and applauded the work of the committee on this “critical body of work” and called on both state and federal governments to take swift action.
“This is a very important report for, work health and safety regulators, business owners, the work health and safety profession and all Australian workers and their families.”
The Committee report made a number of other key recommendations including amending the WHS Act to ban companies from buying insurance against fines, and not allowing repeat WHS offenders to bid on government contracts.
Murphy said that the SIA would look at all 34 Recommendations carefully to determine how they can assist Safe Work Australia and state and territory regulators to implement them as quickly as possible in order to address a range of risks of harm in Australian workplaces.
“Preventing harm is a primary legal and ethical responsibility for every Australian company, and the core purpose of the health and safety profession. Nobody expects to get hurt when they go to work, and yet three people every week lose their lives at work in Australia. That is utterly unacceptable, and we must be united in doing something about it.”
“Many of these recommendations will have an impact on how businesses operate, how regulators enforce compliance, and how the health and safety profession conducts its practice, and we must consider them seriously.”
Murphy also called on state, territory and federal governments, and opposition parties, to examine the report in a timely manner. “The Australian Government and several States will soon be entering election periods. The recommendations of the Senate Committee’s report deserve a considered response and ideally bipartisan support for their implementation if we are going to do justice to the brave stories shared with the Committee over the last few months by the relatives of deceased workers.”