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New QLD industrial manslaughter legislation

Posted on : Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Queensland Government announced in October 2016 a best practice review of work health and safety laws (the 'Review') as a result of fatalities at Dreamworld and Eagle Farm. These fatalities highlighted the need for the Government to ensure the current work health and safety (WHS) framework and its administration is effective, operates as an effective deterrent to non-compliance and is responsive to emerging issues.

 

On 3 July 2017, the final report for the Review was provided to the Government. The Review proposed a number of legislative amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 including some instances where mirror amendments are proposed for the Electrical Safety Act 2002 and the Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011.

 

On 12 October 2017, the Queensland Government passed the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017.

  

The Act introduces a number of significant provisions with the 'industrial manslaughter' offence being the most notable. The offence, which originally was to come into effect from 1 July 2018, instead came into effect on 23 October 2017 when the Act was assented to.

 

Other key elements of the new Act include:

 

  1. A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) or a senior officer may be found guilty of industrial manslaughter where a worker dies or is injured in the course of carrying out work and later dies, and:
    • The officer's or PCBU's conduct substantially contributed to the death of the worker; and
    • They were negligent about causing the death of the worker by their conduct.
  2. The maximum penalty for an individual found to have committed the offence will be 20 years' imprisonment, and the relevant body corporate could be fined up to $10 million.
  3. Establishes an independent statutory office for work health and safety prosecutions.
  4. Addresses issue resolution matters by expanding the jurisdiction of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to include hearing and determining disputes:
    • A dispute in relation to the provision of information by an employer to a HSR;
    • A dispute in relation to a request by a HSR for assistance;
    • A dispute in relation to WHS issue resolution process; and
    • A dispute in relation to cease work matters.
  5. Restores the status of codes of practice as they existed under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995.
  6. Require a mandatory review of codes of practice every five years.
  7. Clarify the circumstances in which the inspector powers of s.171 of the WHS Act apply.
  8. Prohibit enforceable undertakings in circumstances involving a fatality.
  9. Mandate training for health and safety representatives (HSRs).

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