The industrial manslaughter laws
Are you prepared?
The introduction of industrial manslaughter laws increases the risks associated with conducting business. The new offence of workplace manslaughter applies to negligent conduct by an employer or other duty holders, or an officer of an organisation which breaches a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and then causes the death of another person.
"The aim is to prevent workplace death, provide a stronger deterrent for duty holders to comply with their occupational health and safety obligations, and to send a strong message that putting people's lives at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated." - Worksafe Victoria
It is likely that, when determining a breach of industrial manslaughter laws, an organisation's safety culture will be a factor that is assessed as part of that process. Corporate criminal liability will arise "where an organisation’s culture, or unwritten rules, policies, work practices or conduct implicitly authorise non-compliance, or fail to create a culture of compliance, and a death results from this negligent conduct."
The bottom line is that regulators will be motivated to ensure punitive penalties are imposed on employers that don’t do enough to protect both their workers and the public. Employers should be proactive in ensuring they are not only adhering to workplace safety laws, but also cultivating an appropriate culture of safety compliance.
A basic checklist
At a minimum, an organisation should:
- Review OHS systems and allocation of responsibility for performance.
- Ensure that negligent conduct is not authorised or permitted by an organisation's OHS leadership and culture.
- Assess incident action plans to provide a clear response for this kind of incident and support the potential liability of its officers as much as the organisation.
- Ensure due diligence for all directors and officers to protect against personal liability.
- Update insurance and risk allocation.
- Train all employees in the safe practice of high-risk activities.
The threat of significantly increased penalties should motivate all businesses to review and ensure they have robust OHS practices and procedures in place that comply with their OHS obligations.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
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