The Queensland parliament has passed Industrial Manslaughter laws this month, close to 12 months after the deaths of four tourists at Dreamworld, and the deaths of two workers at Eagle Farm, which sparked the decision for additional legislation.

The maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter will be 20 years imprisonment for an individual, with a maximum fine of $10 million for a corporate offender.

The new offence is one of 58 recommendations that were made in Tim Lyons’s Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, which was released in August.

What This Means for Small Business Owners

The intention of this legislation is to drive a cultural shift towards safer workplaces, on the basis that safety culture is driven from the top down. It doesn’t set new obligations for businesses; the legislation has instead been developed to reinforce the existing safety obligations for employers.

The State Industrial Relations Minister, Grace Grace stated “If you are doing the right thing you have nothing to fear from this legislation or these new offences.”

A person conducting business or an undertaking (PCBU), including a senior officer who carries out a business or undertaking will be found to have committed an offence if:

  • a worker
    • dies in the course of carrying out work for the business or undertaking; or
    • is injured in the course of carrying out work for the business or undertaking and later dies; and
  • the person’s conduct causes the death of the worker; and
  • the person is negligent about causing the death of the worker by the conduct.

Michael Garrels, who lost his 20-year son Jason to a preventable workplace accident in Clermont in 2012 and who sits on a government committee established to empower and give other people affected by workplace tragedies a voice, said:

“It’s great to see the government implementing a crucial preventative measure like this to protect Queenslanders in the workplace.

“I believe these laws will definitely save lives and that if they’d been in place at the time they would have made a difference in my son Jason’s case.

How to Reduce your Risk

As a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), it is important that you take your safety obligations seriously, review your business safety policies and procedures, and don’t turn a blind eye to unsatisfactory work practices. Specifically, all workplaces should take the following basic steps to control workplace hazards and reduce risks:

  1. identify the hazard/s by carrying out a workplace risk assessment or similar process;
  2. determine how employees or the public might be at risk;
  3. evaluate the risks;
  4. reduce the risks, through appropriate measures;
  5. record and review hazards regularly, or when something changes in the workplace.  

At Workplace Central, we’re passionate about supporting employers and their employees to create and maintain safe workplaces. As our WHS Manager, John Singleton has said “Those that embrace safety will be here tomorrow and those that don’t won’t be here for long.” If you’re unsure of your obligations and how these legislative changes could impact your workplace, contact John today for a confidential discussion.