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Harmony or discord? Queensland introduces industrial manslaughter laws

November 9, 2017

On 12 October 2017, the Queensland parliament passed the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 (Qld) (Bill).  The Bill introduces a new offence of industrial manslaughter, as well as making other changes to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld).

 

 

 

The Bill comes in the wake of the Dreamworld tragedy in 2016, when four visitors died following a ride malfunction at the theme park.  The Queensland Government commissioned the Best Practice Review of Work Health and Safety in Queensland (Review) in the wake of that and another, separate, incident involving the death of two workers at Eagle Farm racecourse.

 

What do RCSA members (labour hire and workforce management agencies) need to know about the new Bill?

 

Industrial manslaughter

 

The Bill creates a new offence in Queensland of industrial manslaughter.  This offence occurs when a worker dies in the course of carrying out their work (or later dies from injuries suffered while carrying out their work) and:

  • the death of the worker was caused by the conduct of a senior officer or the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU); and

  • the senior officer or the PCBU was negligent about causing the death of the worker by their conduct.

A 'senior officer' is defined in the Bill as including someone who is concerned with or who takes part in a corporation's management.  This is broader than the current definition of 'officer' under the harmonised WHS laws' due diligence provisions. It may capture junior and mid-level managers who are not otherwise covered by the definition of 'officer'.   

 

Both senior officers and PCBUs (e.g. corporations) can be charged under the new provisions.  Interestingly, ordinary workers ‒ even if they caused or were negligent in relation to another worker's death ‒ cannot.