Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (OHS Act) the new industrial manslaughter offence applies to employers, self-employed people and 'officers' of a company or organisation, and also encompasses any negligent conduct by an employer that results in the death of a non-employee member of the public.
Importantly, the accumulated conduct of different officers (regardless of their level of authority) within an organisation may be considered collectively sufficient to establish negligence on the part of the organisation. Direct liability may also be established where a workplace's policies, procedures, practices or conduct implicitly authorise non-compliance, or fail to create a culture of compliance.
Using their powers under the OHS Act, WorkSafe Victoria will lead investigations and prosecutions into workplace manslaughter, with protocols in place between WorkSafe and Victoria Police that require the families of a person who suffers a workplace death or serious injury to be notified as soon as possible after the incident occurs.
Industrial manslaughter laws already exist in Queensland and the ACT, while Western Australia and the Northern Territory are currently in the process of introducing such legislation.
Employers in Victoria (and generally) without a culture of safety compliance and/or without appropriate safety policies, procedures, practices and training, should implement these things as soon as possible.
Our expert Employment, Safety & Regulatory Team at DWF can assist. Please contact Michelle Dawson or Matthew Smith should you require further information.
We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Brittany Tuner to this article.