Useful look at Victoria’s Industrial Manslaughter laws

Eric Windholz has released a perceptive paper on Industrial Manslaughter (IM) that neatly summarises the risks and rationales behind these legislative changes to Victoria’s occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

Windholz explains two functions of the amendments – a motivator for employers to improve OHS in their workplaces and to provide a pathway for bereaved families to actively consult with the government.

The mechanism for the families’ input is the Workplace Incidents Consultative Committee. Windholz writes:

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Industrial Manslaughter frenzy

Parliament of Victoria Melbourne

The pursuit of Premier Dan Andrews and the Victorian Government for Industrial Manslaughter reached a frenzy in Parliament on September 4 2020, when Liberal Parliamentarian Tim Smith expressed his opposition to the extension of Victoria’s state of emergency. His florid speech masked his principal, and admirable, aim, to hold the Government accountable.

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Interview with James Curtin

James Curtin and I have been trying to find time to sit down and talk about occupational health and safety (OHS) and Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws ever since I interviewed trade unionist Dr Gerry Ayres in 2018. The most recent IM laws have recently passed in Victoria and James and I finally found some time to talk.

Below are the personal and professional points that James made in the interview. The rest of the article contains the full interview.

  • Workplace manslaughter has not been found to improve safety and pushing ahead with a model that excludes some duty holders from the offence was/ is wrong
  • There was no gap in the law that this new offence sought to fill. It was an ideologically fuelled position.
  • The model should have been one in all in (like reckless endangerment) or one out all out (and replicate the UK’s Corporate Manslaughter Laws)
  • Working for an employer or employee organisation is a great privilege. You need to represent your constituents effectively but in doing so be mindful of any bias. Some Associations represented their members very well throughout this debate. Some did not. That was very disappointing.
  • Employers have to take their OHS obligations seriously. WorkSafe play a vital role in regulating Victoria’s OHS laws.
  • If you are in business you have to take your obligations seriously. Everyone should have the opportunity to start a business, if they wish, but they must have high regard to their obligations. An effective way of ensuring this is through regulator involvement – proactively and reactively.
  • Compliance and enforcement needs to be looked at differently. Larger fines and custodial sentences is not the answer. Each case needs to be dealt with on its merits and enforceable undertakings can play an integral role

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A return to the Forgotten Royal Commission

Ministerial accountability. Occupational health and safety (OHS). Leadership. Industrial Manslaughter. These issues have existed in various combinations in various jurisdictions and discussed by many people. At the moment in Australia, this combination has in relation to COVID19 but some of the discussion contains tenuous links and some is masking long held political agendas. Much of it harks back to arguments put to the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program.

The latest combination came to my attention from an August 19 article in The Australian newspaper (paywalled) written by business journalist Robert Gottliebsen.

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A sliver of hope on the farm safety horizon

Australian farm safety received several boosts last week. FarmSafe Australia released new report on agricultural injury and fatality trends. The Victorian Government gave the Victorian Farmers Federation more money to fund farm safety inspectors, again. And the Agriculture Minister established a Farm Safety Council of the usual agricultural groups. It is hard not to take many of these farm safety activities as indications of insanity by doing the same thing but expecting different results.


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