Last time we looked at the Australian Senate Inquiry into “The framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia“, various submissions were considered. The Inquiry is continuing to hold public hearings, the most recent of these provided an opportunity for relatives of deceased workers to present their arguments. It is an enlightening insight into a pain that few of us will face but also into the struggles of many to effectively enforce workplace health and safety with, and without, Industrial Manslaughter laws.
The first couple at the 17 July 2018 hearing was Michael and Lee Garrels, the parents of 20-year-old
In November 2016, 53-year old Paula Schubert hanged herself. On July 25 2018 the Northern Territory Coroner Greg Cavanagh described the behaviour of managers at her employer, the Norther Territory Department of Children and Families/Territory Families as bullying.
The full Coronial Findings are an important read for any organisation to understand how managerial activities and attitudes can negatively affect workers.
The Australian trade union movement is confident that Industrial Manslaughter laws will be introduced in each Australian State and Territory over the next few years. Recently the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Law Report program looked at these laws and their discussion in the current Senate Inquiry into “The framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia“.
Much of the radio program contains a general discussion about workplace fatalities with agreement that the long term trend in workplace fatalities is downwards. But no one seems to know the reason for this trend.
Governments use legislation and the threat of punishment as a deterrent for dangerous actions and poor decision-making. Imposing harsh consequences is hoped to change the behaviour of companies and individuals. Occupational health and safety (OHS) laws are no different with deterrence being used to justify the introduction and enforcement of Industrial Manslaughter laws, for instance.
The Australian Senate’s current inquiry
Several of the articles in the Safety At Work special edition on Industrial Manslaughter mentioned in a previous post were from a July 2004 Building Trades Unions Conference at which Reverend Fred Nile, Katy Gallagher and John Della Bosca spoke. Below are some of the interesting quotes raised but before we reach them, in August 2004, the Federal Government, through its then Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, issued a media release saying:
“This is in stark contrast to the ACT’s punitive industrial manslaughter law which simply places employers and employees in an adversarial workplace setting. Industrial manslaughter laws are unnecessary and can only create uncertainty for employers and employees.”