The state government passed legislation late last week to create a new offence: industrial manslaughter. The law aims to increase accountability for workplace safety.
Queensland Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace told Parliament the legislation would send a clear message to employers that negligence is unacceptable.
The bill was introduced following last year’s tragedies at Dreamworld and Eagle Farm, which claimed a total of six lives.
Under the new laws, individuals found guilty of industrial manslaughter will face a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment, while corporations could be fined up to $10 million.
ALA Queensland president Michelle James welcomed the changes.
“These important new protections help to establish Australia’s toughest regime of work health and safety laws and regulations in the state of Queensland,” Ms James said in a statement.
“In particular, the new offence of ‘negligence causing death’ significantly strengthens regulation and compliance around workplace health and safety.
“This new offence fills an obvious gap between the provisions of the Work Health and Safety Act and the Queensland Criminal Code, particularly in situations where someone is given a negligent direction or instruction to perform a task.
“This is where a worker has been given instructions which are plainly contrary to appropriate safety practice and in which obvious safety concerns have been ignored.”
Ms James said the investigation and prosecution of executive officers will help to promote a culture of safety in corporations, to the benefit of employees and customers.
“The message is now clear: your workplace kills someone, you can spend some of the rest of your life in jail,” Ms James said.
“These upgraded laws are not just to the benefit of workers in workplaces. Visitors to workplaces can feel safer too, and safer workplaces means safer communities.
“The Dreamworld tragedy was in the context of many concerns about safety being ignored by the owners of the park. These laws will sharpen the focus on safety for all Queenslanders and tourists.”