In June 2017, the WA Parliament introduced an amendment to the Criminal Code which recognises the offence of industrial manslaughter.
Companies will now be held liable where a worker dies as a result of the company’s negligence.
The change is based on the principle that “every worker has the right to a safe and healthy workplace, and all workers are entitled to expect to be able to return home from work safe and well”.
An employer, if found guilty, could face imprisonment for life.
Currently the law only holds individual persons responsible for manslaughter.
This change removes the obstacle of holding companies themselves liable for the death of an employee in the workplace.
What is Industrial Manslaughter and Negligence?
Industrial manslaughter will occur when:
A worker dies in the course of employment, or is injured and later dies;The company’s conduct or failure to do an act causes the death;The company has been negligent;The company has contributed to the death; andThe company must have known that the conduct would be likely to cause the death but failed to act.
What happens if the employer is part of a corporation?
The new law can result in the company being required to:Publicise its offence including any penalties imposed;Undertake a project for improvement of safety and health; andPay fines.
The Court can only impose these measures if the cost incurred by the company is less than $5,000,000.00.
What happens if a Corporation fails to comply with the Orders?
A Commissioner can carry out any action required to make a company comply with any orders.
The Commissioner may publicise the failure of a company to carry out the orders of the Court.
Furthermore, the legislation proposes that the costs incurred by the Commissioner in enforcing the Court’s Orders will be a debt owed by the corporation to the State.
The new law allows for a tougher stance on safety.
This isn’t a new concept either.
The United Kingdom and Australian Capital Territory have similar laws.
It is a tough law.
However, it is fair to expect criminal sanctions to be imposed in a workplace where a company’s negligent acts lead to the death of a worker.
This law brings WA into line with current community standards, ensuring companies take a more proactive stance on Health & Safety in the workplace.
We expect to come home from work, our families expect it, and now if you don’t, your company may be held liable.