Industrial Manslaughter Laws are treading water

On November 13 2019 the Victorian Parliament heard detailed debate (page 93) about Industrial Manslaughter laws but without resolution. Many of the points raised were familiar and along political party lines but of particular interest was the insights provided into how that State’s political leaders perceive occupational health and safety (OHS).

Each of the speakers reiterated the importance of OHS and how all workers deserve to go home at the end of the shift – you know the cliches and the debate held plenty of them. There was also a fundamental misunderstanding by many speakers though.

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Innovation rather than complaints needed on safety

Moree, Australia – November 25, 2010: A farmer performs a maintenance routine on his John Deere combine harvester in Moree a major agricultural area in New South Wales, Australia.

The Victorian “Labor” Government has submitted its Workplace Manslaughter legislation to its Parliament. Debate is likely to begin, in earnest, from November 12, 2019. There were several surprises on which various business associations have expressed concerns, one surprise was that businesses seem to have been ignored by the government.

In many ways, the challenges are less about the legislation than what those business associations plan to do about occupational health and safety themselves.

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OHS in politics this week

Foggy Winter Morning,Aerial view of the Parliament House Canberra,taken at Red Hill Lookout, Canberra,Australia.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) popped up in the Australian Parliament this week in odd, oblique ways. OHS was tied to

  • asbestos imports,
  • the Ensuring Integrity Bill,
  • a construction company owner in Western Australia, and
  • sexual harassment.

Question and Answers

On September 19 2019 several questions were put about the importation of asbestos containing products. The Government through the Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, advised that:

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“We need to act together to help me get my act together”

On October 21 2019, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews posted on Facebook in support of his government’s move to introduce Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws. He chose the death of Jacob Kermeen and its effect on the family in support of the need for these laws.

It is surely a coincidence that a fatality from a trench collapse was chosen for this exercise. Some of the leading advocates for IM laws are the relatives of two workers who died from a trench collapse in Ballarat in March 2018, a case being prosecuted by WorkSafe Victoria.

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One death may be too many, but it remains a prerequisite for Industrial Manslaughter laws

In Victoria there is much anticipation about the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws to the Parliament. Yesterday Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy and others hosted a meeting for some prominent IM advocates and trade unionists. Part of the reason for the meeting was that this week was the tentative date for the introduction of the IM laws to Parliament. The latest strong rumour is the Victorian Government has privately conceded that the Bill will not pass this year as expected and the Premier is moving to Plan B.

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