The introduction of the new legislation in Victoria represents a new era in workplace safety enforcement. All Victorian employers, both public and private sector, need to understand the new provisions and assess (or reassess) their critical safety risks to ensure that they are meeting their duties.
Employers who do not have appropriate incident response systems to address the aftermath of a serious workplace incident may be at greater risk of inadvertent admissions and should take the time to understand what they need to have in place, and how they should work with their internal and external lawyers.
Want to learn more
We will be addressing these questions and more at a seminar at Maddocks on 10 February 2020 between 8.00am – 10.00am. If you would like to pre-register before the invitation is sent, please contact Brenda Preman, Marketing Advisor, by email or on 03 9258 3547.
If you would like specialised advice or training for your organisation, please contact Catherine Dunlop by email or on 9258 3633.
The least you need to know
The new provisions apply from 1 July 2020 to create the statutory offence of workplace manslaughter, inserted into the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (OHS Act).
The provisions apply to employers who operate in Victoria, noting that the ACT and Queensland also have similar provisions.
Employers, Officers (executives and Board members) and employees can be guilty of the offence. Individuals can face up to 20 years imprisonment while Body Corporates can be fined up to $16.5m (a tenfold increase on current penalties).
An employer, officer or person commits the offence when it/they engage in conduct which is negligent and breach an existing duty owed under the OHS Act which causes the death of a person.
The existing duties include the duties owed to employees, employees of contractors and sub-contractors and persons other than employees (eg members of the public) who are exposed to risk as a result of the employer’s undertaking. The duties apply to both physical and mental risks and hazards.
Conduct (both positive acts and omissions) will be negligent if it involves both a great falling short of the standard of care that a reasonable person would take in the circumstances and a high risk of death, serious injury or illness. This includes consideration of what matters were engaged in by the body corporate and, according to the Explanatory Memorandum, an organisation’s ‘unwritten rules, policies, work practices or conduct’.
The legislation was introduced following an election promise, and at the time of the Bill’s introduction the Attorney General stated that “no person should die at work” and “All workers deserve a safe workplace and the proposed laws send a clear message to employers that putting people’s lives at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated.”
For any further questions, please contact Catherine Dunlop at firstname.lastname@example.org, 03 9258 3633 or 0411 748 310.