The announcement today that the ALP will include a harmonised Industrial Manslaughter offence in the model Workplace Health and Safety legislation marks a systemic shift in how this country will view the responsibility of employers for the safety of workers, and how our courts will address the tragic loss of life that has become an unacceptable feature of Australian workplaces.
Under the current system, employers in most state and territories who are proved to be responsible for the deaths of any of the 200 Australian workers who die due to workplace incidents every year face at most a fine. Many employers write off the cost of these penalties on their insurance.
This has always been an insult to families who have lost a loved one, and to workmates who want to know that changes will be made.
Industrial manslaughter laws will give courts the full range of options where an employer is found to be responsible for the death of a worker. Stiffer penalties, including the prospect of serious time in jail, will act as a more effective deterrent and help to ensure that those responsible for workplace fatalities are treated just as any member of society who is found culpable for a death would be.
In Australia, 200 people a year – four people every week – die at work. One worker is too many, and the ACTU welcomes this significant step towards ending workplace deaths.
Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien:
“Anyone who is responsible for the death of another person should face the prospect of serious jail time.
“Every worker has the right to come home from work, but every year hundreds don’t.
“A fine, which can be covered by insurance, as punishment for causing, the death of another person is deeply insulting to all working people and the families of the untold thousands who have died at work.
“This is a significant reform which will change the way employers think about their responsibility towards their employees.
“The goal must always be to ensure that no one dies at work. No other objective is acceptable.
“The Morrison Government has failed to act for six years, despite four workers dying every single week. We welcome the ALP’s commitment to changing the rules and making workplaces safer.”