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Industrial manslaughter prosecution should sound alarm bells

The successful prosecution of two business owners over the death of an employee should sound alarm bells for any business which is not adhering to strict workplace safety laws.

The warning comes from Amy Towers, of Risk Collective, who said the first prosecutions under Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter laws were a stark reminder of the possible consequences for employers who put the lives of their staff at risk.

Two owners of a Brisbane wrecking yard have been handed suspended jail terms over the death of a 58-year-old worker who was crushed between a reversing forklift and a truck.

The court heard the father of four and a grandfather of six was struck by an inexperienced forklift driver.

The two owners of the business were both sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment, wholly suspended for 20 months, while their company was fined $3 million.

“The outcome of this court case highlights the fact that hefty fines and even lengthy prison sentences await employers who fail to do the right thing,” Amy said. “And it is not just host employers who are potentially going to be pursued by authorities.

“Staffing firms who place temporary workers also have a primary duty of care that they must exercise.

“Failure to do so, means the staffing firm may also find themselves in the same position as the host if they consciously disregard the risks to workers.

“So they must understand how crucial it is to gather information about the work and the workplace and assess the workplace for any risks to health and safety, as appropriate prior to placing workers with the host.

“While this is the first industrial manslaughter prosecution in Queensland, employers in Victoria need to also be aware that similar laws will be introduced there from July 1.”

Queensland’s industrial manslaughter laws make it an offence for a person conducting a business or undertaking, or a senior officer, to negligently cause the death of a worker.

Where a person conducting a business, or senior officer, commits industrial manslaughter, a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for an individual, or $10 million for a body corporate, applies.

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