Work safety
ComplianceLegalCorporate8/05/2021 12:00:00 AM

PCBUs and officers face higher penalties under new industrial manslaughter provision

A new industrial manslaughter offence has been confirmed for the ACT, with a wider reach and significantly higher penalties.

The Bill introducing the costlier offence was passed by the territory’s parliament on 5 August 2021.

The new offence will appear under s 34A of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT) (WHS Act), replacing the current industrial manslaughter offence under the Crimes Act 1900.

Elements of the new industrial manslaughter offence

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) and officers will commit industrial manslaughter under s 34A of the WHS Act if:

  • they engage in conduct
  • the conduct results in the breach of a health and safety duty
  • the conduct causes the death of a worker or other person, and
  • the PCBU/officer is reckless or negligent about causing the death.

The offence is drafted in broader terms, allowing the death of any person to lead to an industrial manslaughter conviction. Under the Crimes Act, only a worker’s death can result in industrial manslaughter.

However, the new offence will require prosecution to establish the breach of a health and safety duty. Under the Crimes Act, the breach of a health and safety duty is not an element of the industrial manslaughter offence.

Penalties for the new industrial manslaughter offence

Individuals who commit industrial manslaughter under s 34A face 20 years of jail.

Body corporates will face fines of up to $16.5 million, which is significantly greater than the existing maximum penalty of approximately $1.6 million.

The substantial penalties should motivate PCBUs and officers to identify and manage all fatal risks in their business or undertaking.

Commencement

At the time of writing, the amending Bill was awaiting notification. The new offence is scheduled to take effect 3 months after the notification day.

Explore further on CCH Pinpoint® — Topic Guide: Industrial manslaughter

Sources: Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2021 (ACT), ACT Legislation website, accessed 5 August 2021.

Mick Gentleman, Industrial manslaughter laws to better protect workers, [media release], 5 August 2021, accessed 5 August 2021.

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