Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2021) . . Page.. 2012 ..
action is required to prevent deaths at work. I am introducing this bill because everyone has the right to come home safe every day.
Today I introduce this bill in memory of those who never came home from work, who have left empty chairs at dinner tables and a gaping hole in the hearts of their family, their colleagues and their mates. This bill is a promise that they will not be forgotten; it is a promise to do better.
Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility. However, in workplaces specific obligations are placed on persons conducting a business or undertaking. The bill provides a mechanism by which companies or the people that direct them can be held accountable for a workplace death caused by recklessness or negligence.
This bill removes the industrial manslaughter offence from the Crimes Act in favour of including the new offence under the Work Health and Safety Act. The ACT Crimes Act currently includes an industrial manslaughter offence. The ACT Labor government was the first government in Australia to introduce an industrial manslaughter offence, back in 2004.
The new offence will improve on the current Crimes Act provisions in several important ways. Firstly, the current Crimes Act offence can only apply where a company or a senior officer of a company causes the death of an employee of that company. Obligations on employers and their officers under the Work Health and Safety Act are broader and extend to protecting the health and safety of any person affected by their work.
By positioning the industrial manslaughter offence within the Work Health and Safety Act, obligations flow to the industrial manslaughter offence. This means the offence could be applied where reckless or negligent action or inaction causes the death of any person, be they an employee, a contractor, a subcontractor, a visitor to the workplace or the employee of another employer present in the workplace. This approach acknowledges and better accounts for the diverse nature of contemporary workplaces and employment arrangements.
The current offence also only applies to persons and corporations. Under the proposed arrangements this will be expanded because the Work Health and Safety Act places obligations on PCBUs. This category of potential offender is broader and would, for example, include partnerships. The Work Health and Safety Act currently provides for three prosecutable categories of work safety offence, with escalating penalties based on the seriousness of the breach. By placing an industrial manslaughter offence within the Work Health and Safety Act, it will allow for a fourth category of offence.
The introduction of this most serious offence will provide a strong deterrent to dangerous and dodgy workplace practices that lead to serious injury and death. This will in turn allow for more effective education and awareness-raising about the consequences of poor safety practices. Overall, these enhancements will provide a more effective deterrence for poor workplace safety.