Call for Industrial Manslaughter laws after more unnecessary deaths

It was inevitable that all States in Australia would end up with Industrial Manslaughter (IM) penalties related to occupational health and safety (OHS). Tasmania is the latest to start the consultation on these laws, and again, it has required a work-related tragedy to generate the outrage that seems required for such a push.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting on the grief and outrage of Georgie Burt, one of the parents of

“….one of six children who died when a jumping castle became airborne at an end-of-year celebration at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport in 2021.”

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“made through the blood of the workers who never came home”

Last week, the Australian Parliament passed a tranche of industrial relations laws; laws that were, unsurprisingly, objected to by some business groups but included some occupational health and safety (OHS) contexts. Industrial Manslaughter was the obvious one, but pay equity and increased job certainty, if not security, for some industry sectors, has the potential to reduce job stress.

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Industrial Manslaughter distracts from what really works

South Australia’s Industrial Manslaughter Bill is being negotiated in its Parliament. New South Wales’ version is in development, and Tasmania has said it does not want to be left out, so the government has flagged its intention to have Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws. Each politician stresses the importance of these laws to deter employers from doing the wrong thing and causing the death of a worker. However, there are serious concerns about the intended deterrent effect when other occupational health and safety (OHS) measures have been shown to be more effective.

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Toothless enforcement

Ross Gittins is a prominent Australian economics journalist. In The Age on September 20, 2023, he wrote an article about the recent spate of corporations being prosecuted and penalized for breaking the law. Many of his points can also relate to companies and executives breaking occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

Continue reading “Toothless enforcement”

OHS lawyer says to trust your gut

Occupational health and safety (OHS) seminars can be a bit hit-and-miss. Sometimes they seem to be a front for promoting a new management program, but every so often, the information offered is perceptive and rewarding. Herbert Smith Freehills partner Steve Bell has been consistently rewarding over many years. No quoting Section 321 of an OHS Act or PowerPoint slide of obscure and semi-important court cases here. His latest seminar appearance covered

  • Due Diligence,
  • Industrial Manslaughter,
  • Psychosocial Risk Assessments
  • OHS Harmonisation.
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WorkSafe Victoria’s Director of Investigations says “Culture is nirvana”

Every so often, the spokespeople for occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators spread the public speaking load by having divisional heads speak at health and safety events. This week WorkSafe Victoria’s Director of Investigations, Peter Collins (pictured below), spoke at a breakfast seminar for the Australian Institute of Health and Safety, hosted by Herbert Smith Freehills. His presentation seemed like a prepared generic presentation which was okay but uninspiring. Given the nature of the investigations and prosecutions job, it should not have been a surprise that Collins was restricted on many of the topics he could speak of.

These AIHS seminars have been running annually for around 15 years and the Institute for decades, so there are some in the audience with long memories. Collins mentioned the persistent workplace hazards, such as manual handling and falls from heights, and

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Industrial Manslaughter comes to South Australia…. finally

South Australia is the latest Australian jurisdiction to introduce Industrial Manslaughter penalties.  The magnitude of the potential penalties is reasonable, given that they come from an employer’s reckless conduct that leads to a fatality.  However, many of the deterrent and preventive impacts expected by politicians and advocates have not been proven.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has an excellent article on the South Australian action.

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