The Palaszczuk Government has introduced legislative changes to create a new offence of industrial manslaughter in Queensland.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the creation of the new offence was one of 58 recommendations contained in Tim Lyons’s Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, released this month.
The government commissioned the Best Practice Review, following two shocking workplace incidents at Eagle Farm racecourse and Dreamworld last year that cost six people their lives.
“After these tragic events last year, concerns were raised about public safety and workplace health and safety matters in Queensland and the effectiveness of current offences and penalties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.We want to ensure our workplace health and safety laws are operating at best practice and the Government is prepared to make the relevant changes to ensure this is the case" Ms Grace said.
Industrial manslaughter is now on the books in Queensland, and it sends out a strong message that if you cost someone their life, you will pay.
Under our proposed laws, 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.
Importantly, companies won’t be able to hide behind elaborate corporate structures to evade their responsibilities.
While the affected families will never get their loved ones back, they can take heart that individuals or companies responsible will be held to account under these laws.
The harsher penalties will serve as a deterrent to employers who are tempted to cut corners when it comes to safety in the workplace.
Ms Grace said the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill seeks to implement the 58 recommendations in the Best Practice Review.
Most of the recommendations relate to operational improvements for Workplace Health and Safety Queensland or the WHS Board, however, a number of these recommendations need legislative changes to the Work Health and Safety Act, the Electrical Safety Act and the Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act.
In line with the Review’s recommendation, the Government will be increasing public protection by introducing new maintenance, operation and competency requirements for the inspection and operation of amusement devices.
This will include an obligation to prepare a safety case and the application of a licensing regime.
The government has commenced working with industry to implement new arrangements which will be phased in, commencing the large theme parks from 1 December 2017.
These new laws will ensure that Queensland’s work health and safety framework is robust and operates as an effective deterrent to those who would choose to disregard the safety of their workers or of the public.
These changes will ensure greater independence and transparency of the industrial prosecutions process in Queensland by providing the QIRC with additional powers, and establishing an independent statutory office for work health and safety prosecutions.