NECA urges rethink on Industrial Manslaughter laws

Monday, 04 September, 2017

The National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) is calling for a rethink on the state government’s proposed Industrial Manslaughter laws.

The Palaszczuk government has introduced into the Queensland Legislative Assembly a Bill that creates a new offence of ‘Industrial Manslaughter’ with directors of companies facing 20 years’ imprisonment and fines of up to $10 million.

In commenting on the changes, NECA Queensland Executive Director Peter Lamont said everyone has a responsibility for safety in the workplace including directors, but Industrial Manslaughter is not the answer.

“The Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill will provide a significant and confusing shake-up to workplace health and safety laws in Queensland. NECA is concerned about the changes as they double up on existing provisions and take Queensland out of step with other states.

“The largest problem that industry has is that it opens up an entirely new jurisdiction as directors can already be criminally prosecuted for serious and reckless breaches of employee duty of care. There will now be a new and costly Independent Statutory Office set up and a concerning situation whereby a WHS Prosecutor will overlap with the DPP.”

Lamont said there is concern of jurisdiction shopping with the very real likelihood that prosecutors will have multiple attempts under various provisions until they are successful.

“As there is an existing Manslaughter offence in the Criminal Code, in short, there is no need for this change,” he said.

“Furthermore, Queensland business owners and managers are already personally liable for the health and safety of their workers under the Work Health and Safety Act. Since 1 January 2012 all executive officers of a business have been responsible and legally liable for the health and safety of every employee, contractor and subcontractor in their workplace.

“Significantly higher penalties were introduced and companies can be fined up to $3 million, while officers can be fined up to $600,000 and face a five-year jail term.”

These changes come only several years after the major rewrite in 2012 that was designed to promote consistency of arrangements across states.

“The new Industrial Manslaughter law will now take Queensland entirely out of step with approaches in other states with only the ACT having these provisions that have never been tested or used. This creates significant burden for those businesses that operate across interstate borders. If a RIS had been conducted as it ought to have, NECA seriously doubts it would have established a net public benefit.”

NECA will be providing a detailed submission to the Parliament Committee’s consideration of the Bill recommending it be ruled out. The industry body is encouraging all businesses to proactively and responsibly monitor workplace safety through an overarching duty of care framework that includes procedures, policies and audits.

“Everyone wants their employees to go home safely, but a new double-up measure brings nothing to this enduring and paramount responsibility,” Lamont said.

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