Crucial New Workplace Manslaughter Laws

In 2020, Carbone Lawyers launched its brand new podcast “The Law Lab”.

The current Stage 4 restrictions in force in Victoria have placed the production of further video episodes on hold, however, in a new series of articles we will round up some of the highlights thus far.

With the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Act 2019 now in effect, having commenced on 1 July 2020, The Law Lab took the time to discuss these crucial new laws in Episode 9.

The new laws were discussed by Managing Partner Tony Carbone, Head of Personal Injury John Karantzis and Senior Associate & Branch Manager Nardine Hanna.

“Effectively, if there has been a fatality on the job site, the director or the employer can be held accountable for that fatality,” Ms Hanna said.

“And so these are strict laws, and deservedly so because I think fatalities on job sites should never occur.

“And now the employer or the director of the company can be prosecuted.”

As the panel would discuss, these laws go far beyond simply holding employers and directors accountable for the deaths of employees.

“Individuals walking past sites are also protected as well,” Mr Karantzis said.

Crucial to the new legislation is the wording used.

The elements of the new workplace manslaughter offence are:

  • the person charged must be a body corporate or a person who is not an employee or volunteer;
  • they must have owed the victim a specified duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
  • they breached the duty owed by negligent conduct;
  • the breach of the duty caused the death of the victim; and
  • if the person charged is a natural person they must have acted consciously and voluntarily when breaching the duty owed.

“And what’s important is that the legislation talks about voluntary and deliberate conduct and it uses the word negligent,” Mr Carbone said.

“The bar is lower. It’s no longer beyond a reasonable doubt.

“What it picks up is a situation where reasonable action to fix a dangerous situation hasn’t occurred.”

Mr Karantzis said the law was intended to ensure employers, occupiers and directors who were aware of a potential hazard but did not fix it can be held accountable.

“And that’s the intent of the legislation, to aim at those employers that were aware of the problem and didn’t fix it.”

If you have questions or concerns about the safety of your workplace or believe a family member has died on a worksite due to negligence on behalf of the employer, get in touch with Carbone Lawyers today.

This article is general information only. It is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact us.

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