Victorian workplace manslaughter laws now in effect
With workplace manslaughter laws coming into effect from 1 July, Victorian employers have a strong reason to ensure that health and safety is their first priority. Employers that fail to meet health and safety obligations face tough new penalties, if their negligence leads to a worker dying on the job. This includes up to 25 years in prison for individuals or $16 million in fines for corporations.
The new laws will be enforced with support from WorkSafe Victoria’s specialised Fatalities Investigations Team — a dedicated unit responsible for investigating workplace deaths. WorkSafe Victoria has appointed 11 members to this team, including eight experienced WorkSafe investigators and three newly graduated investigators with years of experience with Victoria Police. A total of 13 new investigators graduated in June 2020 and have started enforcing workplace health and safety laws.
WorkSafe has also broadened the criteria that define a workplace death; those killed on the road while working, suicides attributable to a workplace health and safety failure, deaths from industrial diseases such as silicosis, and workplace deaths resulting from a criminal act will be recognised in WorkSafe Victoria’s fatality toll. Under this expanded definition, there have been 41 deaths in Victoria in 2020.
This change strives to ensure that the death of every worker gets the recognition they deserve, and bring increased focused to workplace health and safety to re-enforce to Victorian employers that they must make it their first priority.
“It is simply unacceptable for any Victorian to go to work one day and never return home. The threat of jail for individuals, or a hefty fine for organisations, should stop those who think it’s ok to put other priorities above the health and safety of their workers in their tracks,” said Colin Radford, WorkSafe Victoria Chief Executive.
Radford believes that changing the definition of a workplace fatality will better recognise all deaths that occur in a workplace, and ensure they get the attention they deserve.
“This will bring increased attention to workplace health and safety issues so WorkSafe can better identify emerging health and safety issues in Victoria. It will also mean more Victorians will be entitled to much needed support following the death of a loved one in a workplace incident,” Radford said.
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