Industrial Manslaughter Laws in Western Australia

Industrial manslaughter laws in Western AustraliaA dangerous work environment is unavoidable for some professions. Emergency service workers, members of the military, and other professionals routinely place themselves in harm’s way to keep the rest of us secure. Even though these jobs have inherent risks, using safety equipment and implementing proper safety protocols reduces danger.

Workers in other professions with higher than average risks also deserve conditions that create safer workplaces. Even though there are standards in place to protect workers and help eliminate workplace injury and death, a number of businesses routinely cut corners to the barest level of caution. These actions knowingly place workers at risk.


Safe Work Australia Worker Fatality Statistics

It is true that any worker death is too many. Here are the latest stats regarding the workplace and worker fatalities.

The number of fatally injured Australian workers in recent years is:

  • 2017-189
  • 2018-144
  • 2019- 162
  • As of March 12, 2020- 38

These numbers include workers who:

  1. Experienced a fatal injury as a result of work activities or exposure
  2. Suffered a fatal injury in an Australian state or territory
  3. Experienced a deadly injury in Australian territorial seas


What is the Definition of Industrial Manslaughter?

A generally accepted definition of industrial manslaughter:

A criminal offence where the inaction or action of an employer leads to the death of an employee.


Study of Work Health and Safety Act

The Western Australia public generally supports enacting measures that will reduce workplace deaths by increasing accountability, enforcing harsh penalties for non-compliance, and make prosecution in these cases more manageable.

The support for measures grew as a result of a 2018 independent study of the Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws. The study conducted by Ms Marie Boland of Safe Work Australia explored the national standards and how the existing laws did not do enough to impact corporations and individuals’ behaviours

The recommendations offered in the study are the basis for a two-tiered industrial manslaughter offence:

  • Class One – Industrial Manslaughter (Crime) – This is the most serious of the two types of industrial manslaughter offence. Class one carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison along with a fine for an individual of $5,000,000 and a fine for a corporate body of $10,000,000.
      • Crimes falling under this classification include any actions take that knowingly could lead to the death of an individual or activities made with no regard for the likelihood of death.
  • Class Two – Industrial Manslaughter (Simple Offence) – The class two offence has a maximum term of 10 years in prison and a fine of $2,500,000 for an individual or a fine in the amount of $5,000,000 for a corporation.
      • To convict on the class two designation, proving the fact that the perpetrator was aware that their action or inaction would likely result in death is not necessary. A conviction hinges on the fact that the accused committed the offence and that the person conducting a business or undertaking took part in negligent conduct or consented to actions leading to an employee death.


What Response Are the New Laws Getting in Western Australia?

Worker safety is paramountGenerally, the strengthening of these laws received praise from Labour Party members and leaders. Additionally, private citizens tend to approve of the measures.

Mick Buchan, CFMMEU State secretary, feels the new consequences are appropriate, as well as necessary. Buchan explained that unscrupulous employers who cut back on safety measures gain vast amounts of money. By making the penalties high and involving jail time, those tempted to cut corners should think twice.

When the people in charge like employers, managers, or site supervisors realise they personally face jail time for the inadequacy of safety, building a culture of safety suddenly is a necessary undertaking.


Is Anyone Voicing Objections to the Industrial Manslaughter Offences?

A voice of dissent came from Chris Rodwell, the Western Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive. Rodwell explained that in his opinion, the new laws would not have the desired impact on workplace deaths, noting that he believed the changes would lead to an influx of finger-pointing and blaming when accidents occur.

Similarly, Paul Everingham, the chief executive of the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy, pointed out that the current standards provide similar powers to industry regulators.


What is Our Stance?

Here at Lawson Legal, we believe strongly in an individual’s right to legal counsel under the Australian statutes. Our experts understand the ins and outs of corporate law as well as the features of the industrial manslaughter.

If you believe you are in a situation that warrants legal representation, do not hesitate to give Lawson Legal a call on (08) 9225 7417. We are happy to discuss circumstances with potential clients.

Furthermore, we believe that going it alone can be a grievous error. Our experts are glad to provide the information you need to help you make a decision that will help your situation.