What is the problem that Industrial Manslaughter laws are intended to solve?

Marie Boland speaking on Day one

This week Melbourne Victoria hosted a conference about Work Health and Safety Prosecutions and Enforcement. The two-day conference, run by Criterion Conferences, focused on law and the application of that law. Occupational health and safety (OHS) was largely a subtext of the discussion, but it raised its head occasionally.

The audience of around 100 consisted of many OHS regulators and lawyers from most Australian States. This conference profile set the tone of this conference where a lot of legal knowledge and terminology was assumed even though, occasionally and not knowing the audience, a speaker trod old ground with Law 101.

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New Safety Podcast focuses on Law

One of the prominent occupational health and safety (OHS) lawyers in Australia has started a podcast. The first episode discusses Industrial Manslaughter.

Steve Bell of law firm Herbert Smith Freehills recently published the Safety Podcast, but the title is a bit of a misnomer as, judging by the first episode, the discussion is more about safety law than safety. Regardless, the podcast adds to our state of OHS knowledge.

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The political cycle of OHS irrelevance

So, the Australian Labor Party (ALP), the political arm of the trade union movement, the friend of all Australian workers, failed to win government from the Conservative parties. Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) improvements are likely to be left to the magnanimity of the employers, Persons in Control of a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) and those ideologically opposed to regulatory impositions.

But does the OHS future under Conservative governments mean that workers will be worse off? Sadly, Yes, if the experience of the United States is anything to go by, as illustrated in the analysis of the “Laissez-Faire Revival” by Thomas O. McGarity.

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Industrial manslaughter laws are (still) unlikely to save lives in the workplace

In June 2018, Rick Sarre, now the Dean of Law at the University of South Australia’s School of Law, wrote an article in The Conversation titled
Why industrial manslaughter laws are unlikely to save lives in the workplace“. On the eve of the #safetyscape conference and an upcoming conference on enforcement in which presentations on Industrial Manslaughter laws will feature, SafetyAtWorkBlog asked the very busy Professor for an update on some of the themes and thoughts in his article. Below are his responses.

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Better jobs should also be safer jobs

The impending election in Australia has started to generate various position statements and discussion papers from various lobbyists. The Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) are the latest of these.

The AiGroup released its Productive and Fair Workplace Relations statement in late March 2019. Surprisingly there is no mention of occupational health and safety (OHS) even though its contribution to a productive workforce is well established. Its omission is doubly surprising given the political stink in some States about the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws.

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