After the success of their first industrial manslaughter prosecution in June 2020, WorkSafe QLD is trying to have another crack at industrial manslaughter.
Industrial Manslaughter has only been passed in ACT, QLD, NT and VIC but it looks more than likely it will shortly be introduced in SA and WA. Industrial Manslaughter is the highest criminal offence under safety legislation and is reserved for only the most serious offences.
A corporation or an officer will be charged with industrial manslaughter if:
- A worker has died;
- The death is connected to their employment; and
- The death occurred directly due to the corporation or officer’s negligent conduct.
There are significant penalties associated with industrial manslaughter, see our helpful table which breaks it down for each State and Territory here.
Due to the seriousness of the offence, the only confirmed prosecutions of industrial manslaughter so far are the cases of R v Watts and R v Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd & Ors (see our article) thus far. It is likely that we will see this increase as the regulatory authorities try to make examples out of rogue employers.
While there have been examples of corporations being charged, for the first time ever WorkSafe QLD have charged the Director of Owen’s Electric Motor Rewinds, Jeffrey Owen with the offence of industrial manslaughter. In July 2019, a worker at the Owen’s Electric Motor Rewinds site was fatally crushed by a portable generator that was being unloaded by a forklift. The forklift directly flipped as a result of Mr Owen overloading the forklift. The case is due to be heard on 1 October 2020, and Mr Owen faces up to 20 years in prison. This case serves as a lesson to all employers, to be vigilant and careful otherwise you can be directly held responsible for any accidents that occur.
- Employers must do their due diligence and carefully scrutinise all their safety protocols. Unlike in this case, even if your actions did not directly cause their actions. If you were aware of the risk and did nothing to prevent the risk from eventuating, you will still be charged if it results in a workplace fatality
- Officers will be held personally liable if their actions contributed to the actions
- Remember the only defence is reasonable practicability – make sure you have done everything possible you can to avert risks. If it is a freak accident that could not have been prevented you will not be prosecuted.
Written by Nina Hoang
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