As of 1 July 2020, workplace manslaughter is now a criminal offence in Victoria, with negligent employers now facing fines of up to $16.5 million and individuals face up to 25 years in jail.
The new legislation sends a clear message to employers that putting lives at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated. Too many Victorians have had their lives tragically cut short after simply going to work, with 25 people across the state tragically losing their lives in workplace incidents so far this year.
The new offence of workplace manslaughter will be investigated by WorkSafe Victoria, using their powers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
The offence applies to employers, self-employed people and ‘officers’ of the employer. It also applies when an employer’s negligent conduct causes the death of a member of the public.
The State Government is also delivering on its commitment to reform workplace safety in Victoria by broadening the criteria that defines a workplace death.
As of 1 July, fatalities that occur on the road while working, suicides attributable to a workplace health and safety failure, deaths from industrial diseases such as silicosis, and workplace deaths resulting from a criminal act, are officially recognised in the WorkSafe toll.
There have been 41 deaths in Victoria in 2020 under the expanded definition.
The change means more Victorians will be entitled to WorkSafe family support services following the death of a loved one at work and broader reporting will bring increased focus to workplace health and safety issues.
WorkSafe Chief Executive Colin Radford said workplace manslaughter laws would play a crucial role in making Victorian workplaces safer.
“It is simply unacceptable for any Victorian to go to work one day and never return home,” Mr Radford said.
“The threat of jail for individuals, or a hefty fine for organisations, should stop those who think it’s ok to put other priorities above the health and safety of their workers in their tracks.”
Mr Radford added that changing the definition of a workplace fatality would better recognise all deaths that occur in a workplace to ensure they get the attention they deserve.
“This will bring increased attention to workplace health and safety issues so WorkSafe can better identify emerging health and safety issues in Victoria,” he said.
“It will also mean more Victorians will be entitled to much-needed support following the death of a loved one in a workplace incident.”