In brief 3 min read
The following map sets out the status of industrial manslaughter laws in each Australian jurisdiction:
- Australian Capital Territory – The crime of industrial manslaughter has existed in the ACT since 2004. In August 2021, legislative amendments were introduced to align the crime with other work safety offences. In the ACT, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) or an officer of a PCBU commits industrial manslaughter if they engage in conduct which breaches a health and safety duty and causes a person's death. The PCBU or officer must have been reckless or negligent about causing the death. The maximum penalty is 20 years' imprisonment for an individual and fines of $16.5 million for a company.
- New South Wales - A bill to introduce an industrial manslaughter offence passed the Legislative Council in November 2021. It is currently before the Legislative Assembly. Under the proposed legislation, a PCBU or senior officer commits the offence if a person dies at the workplace or is injured at the workplace and later dies, and the PCBU or senior officer's conduct caused the death. The PCBU or senior officer must have engaged in the conduct without reasonable excuse and have been grossly negligent or reckless. The maximum penalty is 25 years' imprisonment for an individual and $10,295,000 for a company.
- Northern Territory - The offence of industrial manslaughter came into effect in the NT on 1 February 2020. A PCBU or an officer of a PCBU commits industrial manslaughter if they intentionally engage in conduct which breaches a health and safety duty and causes the death of an individual to whom the health and safety duty was owed. The PCBU or officer must also be reckless or negligent about the conduct breaching the health and safety duty and causing the death of that individual. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for life for an individual and fines of $10.2 million for companies.
- Queensland – The offence of industrial manslaughter came into effect in Queensland on 23 October 2017. It is an offence for a PCBU or senior officer to negligently cause the death of a worker, including where a worker is injured carrying out work and later dies. The maximum penalty is 20 years' imprisonment for an individual and $10 million for companies.
- South Australia - In September 2020, a bill to create the offence of industrial manslaughter was introduced in a private member's bill. Under the bill, an employer (or an officer of the employer) would commit the offence if they were in breach of their duty of care and their breach caused the death of a worker. They also had to be ‘recklessly indifferent’ as to whether their conduct would create a substantial risk of serious harm. However, the second reading of the Bill was adjourned. There have been no further updates on whether the bill will be reintroduced for debate.
- Tasmania – Industrial manslaughter is not currently an offence in Tasmania. There are no bills before the Tasmanian Parliament to introduce an industrial manslaughter offence.
- Victoria – The offence of workplace manslaughter came into effect in Victoria on 1 July 2020. A corporation or officer commits the offence of workplace manslaughter if they engage in conduct that is negligent, constitutes a breach of an applicable duty the person owes to another person, and causes the death of that other person. The Victorian offence carries maximum penalties of up to 25 years' imprisonment for individuals and fines of $18.17 million for companies.
- Western Australia– The new Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WA) was passed in November 2020, bringing the state closer to the work health and safety laws in most other jurisdictions. It includes an industrial manslaughter offence, which arises when a duty holder (including officers of PCBUs in some situations) fails to comply with their health and safety duty and engages in conduct that causes the death of an individual, in the knowledge that the conduct was likely to result in death or serious harm, and in disregard of that likelihood. The maximum penalty is 20 years' imprisonment and a fine of $5 million for an individual and a fine of $10 million for a company. The new legislation is expected to come into effect in 2022.