The iconic Australian theme park, Dreamworld, will never fully recover from the consequences of the deaths of four people after the Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned in 2016. The legal journey through the Queensland Courts finished on September 28 2020 with the handing down of a financial penalty of $3.6 million, although others could say the journey ended with the parent company’s, Ardent Leisure’s, plea of guilty, and others may pursue Ardent Leisure for civil penalties, if they can access details of Ardent Leisure’s insurance policies.
Many advocates see the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws as a glorious moment that will change the world for the better, in other words, a silver bullet. But if it is a silver bullet, it is being shot into the political murk. Queensland’s expansion of its Industrial Manslaughter laws to the mining and resources industries was presented to Parliament on February 4, 2020, and is likely to pass with the support of those industries.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) laws should apply to businesses and workers without exception. Queensland’s exemption of the mining and resources sector from Industrial Manslaughter laws was always a nonsense but that nonsense made good political sense in an election year.
Before Christmas, the Victorian Government will be presenting a Bill for Industrial Manslaughter laws to the Parliament. The core elements of accountability and penalty are expected to be little different to the Bill that failed to pass Parliament earlier this Century by a bee’s whatsit. The debate is likely to be on the same benefits and costs, so one can reread Victoria’s Hansard from 2002 or look at the debate in Queensland Parliament last week where that Government’s “Safety Reset” has generated arguments about which party is more committed to occupational health and safety (OHS).
Last week the Queensland Government proposed changing some of the health and safety laws that relate to mining. Changes to occupational health and safety (OHS) laws that improve workplace safety are almost always welcome, but to some extent these recent changes are “catch-up”.
The Government’s media statement of the proposed laws is very positive and the changes are largely very good. Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham is quoted saying
“The Department’s mines inspectorate through their investigations have found that one of the causes of an increase in risk is due to contractors not having a full understanding of the SHMS on the mining site…”