New era for workplace health and safety

Employers have a strong new reason to make health and safety their first priority as workplace manslaughter laws come into effect today.
News article published

Tuesday 30 Jun 2020

From July 1, employers that fail to meet health and safety obligations face tough new penalties should their negligence lead to a worker dying on the job.

This includes up to 25 years in prison for individuals or $16 million in fines for corporations.

The new laws will be enforced with support from WorkSafe’s specialised Fatalities Investigations Team – a dedicated unit that will be responsible for investigating workplace deaths.

WorkSafe has already appointed 11 members to this team, including eight experienced WorkSafe investigators and three newly graduated investigators who have years of experience with Victoria Police.

In total 13 new investigators graduated last month and have already started enforcing workplace health and safety laws.

As part of these health and safety reforms, WorkSafe has also broadened the criteria that define a workplace death.

Those killed on the road while working, suicides attributable to a workplace health and safety failure, deaths from industrial diseases such as silicosis, and workplace deaths resulting from a criminal act, will be recognised in WorkSafe’s fatality toll from this week.

There have been 41 deaths in Victoria in 2020 under the expanded definition.

This change will ensure the death of every worker gets the recognition it deserves and bring increased focus to workplace health and safety to re-enforce to Victoria’s employers that they must make it their number one priority.

WorkSafe Chief Executive Colin Radford said workplace manslaughter laws would play a crucial role in making Victorian workplaces safer.

“It is simply unacceptable for any Victorian to go to work one day and never return home,” Mr Radford said.

“The threat of jail for individuals, or a hefty fine for organisations, should stop those who think it’s ok to put other priorities above the health and safety of their workers in their tracks.”

Mr Radford said changing the definition of a workplace fatality would better recognise all deaths that occur in a workplace to ensure they get the attention they deserve.

“This will bring increased attention to workplace health and safety issues so WorkSafe can better identify emerging health and safety issues in Victoria,” Mr Radford said.

“It will also mean more Victorians will be entitled to much needed support following the death of a loved one in a workplace incident.”