The Boland review of model WHS legislation has handed down 34 recommendations including that the model WHS Act be amended to introduce Industrial Manslaughter as an offence in workplace health and safety legislation.
Under the current system in most states, many companies which are found to be responsible for the death of a worker pay only small fines, which can often be claimed against insurance. This provides no deterrent for unsafe workplace practices which kill more than 200 workers in Australia every year.
The review also highlights the growing incidence of psychosocial injuries at work and recommends government introduce regulation to protect workers along with increased penalties.
We need ongoing and wide-ranging change in workplace health and safety to end deaths at work, but Industrial Manslaughter legislation would be a huge step forward.
As noted by ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien:
“Everyone should come home safe from work, but every week four people are killed in their workplace in Australia.
“There should not be one rule for working people and another for bosses. If you cut corners on safety and someone dies, you should be held responsible, and you should go to jail.
“It’s appalling that businesses can claim the tiny fines they receive for killing a person – destroying a family and a community in the process – against their insurance. There is no justice in that, and more importantly there is no incentive to change.
“Industrial Manslaughter is not just important because it will provide an avenue to true justice for the families of those people killed at work, but because it will force cultural change that will hopefully lead to fewer deaths at work.”