Come July, the workplace safety legislation in Victoria will see the addition of new industrial manslaughter offences under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act. With the changes to impact anyone who has a duty under the OHS Act, insurance broker Honan Insurance Group is directing employers’ attention to the key business implications.
The two new offences are: Where a person commits workplace manslaughter when engaged in conduct that is negligent in breach of applicable duties owed to another person, and where the negligent conduct has caused the death of a person; and where a person who is an officer of an entity will commit workplace manslaughter when they engage in conduct that is negligible, in breach of an applicable duty owed by the entity to another person and where the conduct causes the death of a person.
According to Honan, those who can be charged are directors and secretaries of companies; partners of a partnership or joint venture; the trustee of a trust; persons who participate in the making of decisions that affect a substantial part of the organisation’s business; and persons who have the capacity to significantly affect the organisation’s financial standing.
“Industrial manslaughter legislation holds businesses liable for the death of a person (worker or other) resulting from practices of neglect in the workplace,” noted the insurance broker. “To ensure the safety of their people, businesses must conduct adequate training and risk management processes to mitigate potential hazards and risks at all times.”
In fact, employers are required to provide a workplace free of health and safety risks as far as reasonably practicable. Health and safety implications should also be constantly monitored and safety procedures regularly reviewed and updated.
The company added that questions senior management teams must be able to answer include: Do you have the right safety systems and resources to prevent hazards and incidents from occurring; do you receive sufficient information on which work practices result in workplace injury; and are you comfortable you are meeting your obligations?
“A person, body corporate, and officers who owes applicable duties to ensure the health and safety of another person in the workplace can be charged with industrial manslaughter,” said Honan. “If convicted of workplace manslaughter, a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment for individuals and/or a maximum fine of $16.5 million for body corporates may be applied.”