The new laws are based on the national model Work Health and Safety Bill and will bring Western Australia in line with New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Tasmania.
The Act aims to improve consistency with the rest of Australia; provide the primary legislative framework for workplace health and safety across all Western Australian industries; and be supported by industry-specific regulations to suit the state's unique conditions, enabling the resources sector to continue to use a risk-based approach, support the safety-case approach for petroleum and major hazard facilities.
The Act will replace the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 and introduces a duty of care so far as is reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of workers and an industrial manslaughter charge.
The importance of the new laws were highlighted following the recent tragic death of an apprentice whilst working on a Curtin University construction site. As stated by Premier Mark McGowan stated that “[t]he death of one worker is one too many, it’s time we introduce industrial manslaughter laws to make sure Western Australians are protected at work”.
The industrial manslaughter offences have been separated into two categories being ‘crime’ and ‘simple offence’.
The industrial manslaughter ‘crime’ offence arises when a duty of care holder engages in conduct that fails to comply with their health and safety duty which causes the death of an individual. The duty of care holder must engage in said conduct with the knowledge that the conduct was likely to result in death or serious harm, and in disregard of that likelihood.
The maximum penalty for an individual is 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $5 000 000 and the maximum penalty for a body corporate is a fine of $10 000 000.
‘Simple offence’ industrial manslaughter has no requirement for an employer to have caused the death or had knowledge that the conduct was likely to cause the death.
This offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and a fine of $2,500,000 for an individual and a fine of $5 000 000 for a body corporate.
With this new law in place, it is imperative that businesses review their health and safety policies.