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Latest Changes to WHS laws – New offence for Industrial Manslaughter Introduced 

19/06/2024by admin0Read: 3 minutes

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023, passed by the Australian parliament in December 2023, introduced a new offence of industrial manslaughter under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The July 2024 update has details of this offence that emphasise the severity of penalties and punishment industrial manslaughter can amount to.

Effective from 1 July 2024, this offence carries maximum penalties of $18 million for corporations or the Commonwealth, and up to 25 years’ imprisonment for individuals, aligning with the manslaughter penalties in the Criminal Code.

This new offence was a key recommendation from the 2018 review of the model work health and safety laws and addresses community concerns about the need for stronger penalties for severe breaches leading to workplace fatalities.

Key Features of the New Offence for Industrial Manslaughter

Key features of the new offence for industrial manslaughter include:

1) The prosecution must prove negligence or recklessness and that the conduct was intentional.

2) No limitation period for bringing proceedings.

3) Applies to Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) and officers.

4) Allows for alternative verdicts of Category 1 or Category 2 offences if a court is unsatisfied with a defendant’s guilt in industrial manslaughter.

5) Prohibits considering enforceable undertakings in relation to an industrial manslaughter offence.

The industrial manslaughter offence was introduced amongst the December 2023 amendments to the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), with the passing of the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023 in the parliament. These changes, which include increased penalties and new offences, aim to enhance workplace safety and accountability.

Quick Recap on the Key Amendments to WHS from December 2023 Sans Industrial Manslaughter

Here is a quick walkthrough of the other key amendments introduced in December 2023 to the WHS Act 2011:

1) Increased Penalties

Effective Date: Increased penalties took effect on 15 December 2023.

Category 1 Offences: Penalties have significantly increased:

$15 million for a body corporate or the Commonwealth (up from $3 million).

$3 million for a person conducting a business or undertaking or an officer (up from $600,000).

$1.5 million for any other person (up from $300,000).

Other Penalties: Penalties for Category 2 and Category 3 offences are now $2,090,000 and $700,000, respectively (previously $1.5 million and $500,000).

2) Indexation to Consumer Price Index

Ongoing Adjustments: Penalties will now be indexed to the Consumer Price Index for annual adjustments, ensuring they remain impactful over time.

3) New Criminal Responsibility Provisions

Accountability: These provisions enhance accountability for corporate bodies and the Commonwealth. Conduct by officers, employees, agents, and boards of directors can be attributed to the corporate body.

4) Aggregation of Conduct

Proving Offences: New sections 244A and 244B of the WHS Act allow for the aggregation of conduct, meaning the same individual does not need to have engaged in the conduct and held the relevant state of mind to prove an offence against a corporate body.

5) Family and Injured Workers Advisory Committee

Establishment: By the end of 2024, this committee will be formed to advise the Minister and Comcare on the support needs of those affected by serious workplace incidents. It will also help inform relevant Comcare policies, practices, and strategies.

These amendments are designed to strengthen the WHS framework and ensure higher levels of safety and accountability in Australian workplaces. By implementing these changes, the government aims to enhance workers’ protection and hold organisations accountable for breaches that result in serious harm or fatalities.

Anitech’s team of experienced occupational hygienists can help businesses understand these key amendments and how they can protect workers from industrial manslaughter, thus preventing penalties and safeguarding their reputation from getting damaged.

Our team can suggest solutions for enhanced workplace health and safety.

Feel free to book a session with us today at 1300 802 163, or e-mail– sales@anitechgroup.com

For more such regulatory changes, stay tuned to our website.

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