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Perspective

Victoria’s stance on Workplace Manslaughter

Andrew Douglas
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The Victorian Workplace Safety Minister, Jill Hennessey,  in announcing the New Workplace Manslaughter Law coming into effect in Victoria on 1 July 2020, explained how different Victorian law is, especially as it applies to death caused in workplace but happening outside (like silicosis and suicide) and also to non-workers. In Victoria, the Regulator (WorkSafe), must prove:

  1. A breach of a duty owed under the OHS Act;
  2. The breach was negligent to a very high standard, and
  3. The breach caused the person’s death.

If, for example, a person entering your workplace is killed by your business failing to do everything reasonably practical under s.23 to prevent injury to that person, you have established the first and third element. The question is, was the breach negligent to the degree, there was a great falling short of the standard of care that would have been taken by a reasonable person in the circumstances, and involves a high risk of death or serious injury. If the answer is yes – there was such a failing the second element is made out.

Although there is some esoteric argument that employees can be liable the intention of the amending legislation is to hold the employer and officers liable, 25 years jail is a strong incentive to get it right.

Minister Hennessey made it very clear that Workplace Manslaughter will be prosecuted in Victoria. You could not get a stronger statement of policy and intention.

Andrew Douglas
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