New Workplace Manslaughter Offences in VIC


The Victorian Parliament has introduced two new workplace manslaughter offences carrying severe penalties for organisations and their officers.

This alert applies to bodies corporate, partnerships, and unincorporated bodies and associations and will likely amend the VIC – OH&S – General topic.

Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019 (Vic)

Please be advised that the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019 (Vic) (the Bill) passed its Third Reading on 26 November 2019 and received Royal Assent on 3 December 2019. The Bill is due to commence on a day yet to be proclaimed.

Overview

The Bill amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (the OH&S Act) by inserting Part 5A to provide for the new offence of workplace manslaughter. The Bill acts to create a system of accountability for organisations and their officers, to prevent workplace deaths and breaches of duty owed under the OH&S Act, and to reflect the severity of conduct that places life at risk in the workplace.

Workplace Manslaughter

Part 5A of the Bill introduces two workplace manslaughter offences into the OH&S Act. The first offence prohibits a person from engaging in negligent conduct that constitutes a breach of an applicable duty owed by the person to another person and causes the death of that other person. The second offence prohibits an officer of an applicable entity from engaging in negligent conduct that constitutes a breach of an applicable duty owed by the entity to another person and causes the death of that other person. The offences are intended to capture both conduct that occurs outside Victoria but results in a workplace fatality in Victoria, and conduct that occurs inside Victoria but results in a workplace fatality outside Victoria.

For the purposes of these offences, an “applicable entity” includes a body corporate, an unincorporated body or association, and a partnership. “Officer” has the same meaning as in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), and includes directors, people who participate in making decisions that affect a substantial part of the organisations business, and people who have the capacity to significantly impact the organisations financial standing.

An “applicable duty” is a duty imposed under Part 3 of the OH&S Act. Subscribers should note that duties owed by employees under sections 25 and 32 of the OH&S Act are not included within the scope of this definition, and the offences do not apply to volunteers. Conduct will be deemed to be negligent for the purposes of the offences if it involves a “great falling short of the standard of care that would have been taken by a reasonable person in the circumstances in which the conduct was engaged in”, and involves a high risk of death, serious injury or illness.

Penalties

To reflect the severity of the workplace manslaughter offences, associated penalties are severe. The first offence carries a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment for an individual, or a fine of up to 100,000 penalty units (currently $16,522,000) for a body corporate. The second offence attracts a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment. Additionally, the Bill has amended section 144 of the OH&S Act to provide for an increased maximum fine for workplace manslaughter of 10,000 penalty units (currently $1,652,200) for an individual. Previously under this section of the OH&S Act, if a body corporate contravened a provision of the OH&S Act and the contravention was due to a failure of an officer of the body corporate to take reasonable care, the officer would be liable to a fine not exceeding the maximum fine that could be imposed if a natural person was found guilty of the same offence.

Please click here to access the full Bill.

Contact

For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667

Email: info@lawcompliance.com.au