Industrial manslaughter offence coming to model WHS laws

  • The review into the model WHS laws has found that they were largely operating as intended but made 34 recommendations for reform.
  • The review recommended the creation of the new consequence-focused offence of industrial manslaughter where a death in the workplace is the result of the gross negligence by a duty holder.
  • It was also recommended that duty holders should be outlawed from getting insurance for a penalty in a WHS matter as it goes against public policy and the purpose of the legislation.

Small hard hat, construction sign and traffic cone in businessman's hands

On 25 February 2019, the Report of the first national review of Australia’s model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws was released. The Report which was prepared by former executive director of SafeWork South Australia, Marie Boland, notes that the regulatory scheme under the model laws is largely operating as intended. However, it identifies areas for improvement and makes 34 recommendations for reform. These include the introduction of an industrial manslaughter offence and some adaptation of the duty-holder principles under the model laws to various modern work arrangements.

Background

The model WHS laws aim to provide for a harmonised approach to WHS regulation across Australia. They were developed following the establishment of Safe Work Australia, the statutory body tasked with undertaking a National Review of WHS laws in 2008. The model WHS laws were implemented by all jurisdictions, except for Victoria and Western Australia, between 2012 and 2013.1 However, Victoria may soon be the only jurisdiction not to have adopted the model WHS laws, as the Western Australian government has recently engaged in consultation regarding new legislation to be based on the model WHS Act.2

In 2018, at the request of the federal and state Ministers responsible for WHS, Ms Boland reviewed the content and operation of the model WHS laws (including the model WHS Act, WHS Regulations and Codes of Practice). Ms Boland’s Report followed extensive consultation with stakeholders, and is the first comprehensive review of the model WHS laws since their implementation.3

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