Victorian Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy confirmed the proposed laws include fines of up to 100,000 penalty units, currently equating to $16,522,000, for employers that negligently cause a workplace death.
There was a bad joke going around for a long time in the safety world that you were better off having an employee die than having an oil spill because the fines for an oil spill were always incredibly high from the EPA, much higher than the fines from Worksafe. This new legislation rights this wrong in my opinion and while you can never put a price on a life at least this isn’t an insult to those who are left behind.
This is much higher than Australia’s current highest maximum work health and safety fine of $10 million for industrial manslaughter in Queensland. An individual who negligently causes a work-related death in Victoria could be jailed for up to 20 years, as in Queensland.
The Victorian Labor Government promised the new laws and penalties in the lead up to the November 2018 State election and established a special reference group to ensure the families of people killed in workplace accidents contributed to the development of the legislation.
Today, Hennessy said she “cannot begin to imagine the pain felt by the families who have lost a loved one at work”.”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,” she said.
The workplace manslaughter offence will be added to the State Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and apply to employers, self-employed people and the officers of employers, the Minister said.
It will also apply to an employer’s negligent conduct that causes the death of a member of the public, compelling duty holders to ensure safety both in and around workplaces, she said.
If it were up to me (Shayne) alone I would tie the fine to the turn over of the business if your turnover exceeds $20 million dollars so companies with multi-billion dollar cash flow would still feel the pain of the fine. Even at the max fine of $16 Million billion-dollar companies wouldn’t even notice the money. Even more importantly we need to see these new laws prosecuted because if they don’t use the full power of the law then it still means nothing in the end.
It’s time for every business to take safety in the workplace seriously and I really hope this helps make that happen.