24 people were killed in Victorian workplaces in the last financial year. For decades now, bereaved families have been denied justice and employers continue to operate dodgy businesses after their negligence kills people. Victorian Trades Hall Council welcomes the Workplace Manslaughter Bill that the Andrews Labor Government has introduced into Parliament.
It will provide justice for bereaved families. No longer will their tragedy be relegated to a mere factor in a court room debate about whether a “risk to health and safety” existed. No longer will they be prevented from submitting a victim impact statement.
Currently, if an employee is criminally negligent and they kill someone, the Crimes Act can be used to prosecute them. But the Crimes Act cannot be used to prosecute a company or a senior manager hiding behind the corporate veil. The Workplace Manslaughter Bill is designed to fix that loophole.
Employers have total control over their business – they dictate how, when and where work gets done. Our Occupational Health and Safety Act states that the employer has the duty to provide a safe workplace. Some want to use this bill to rewrite the Occupational Health and Safety Act to make employees responsible for health and safety in circumstances when they have no say over how, when and where work gets done. Instead of dramatically rewriting our occupational health and safety framework, this bill simply ensures that criminally negligent employers face penalties in line with community expectations.
This bill has real penalties attached to it. It will ensure that companies are no longer able to treat workplace fatalities as the cost of doing business. As a consequence, it will focus their attention on taking safety seriously.
VTHC stands ready to work with Government and the cross bench to close the loophole, protect workers and ensure justice for families torn apart by criminally negligent employers.
Statements attributable to Luke Hilakari, VTHC Secretary
“This bill will save lives. It is disappointing, though not surprising, that there are some employer groups worried about the cost of fines they might receive when they negligently cause a worker’s death. But our Parliament must have the common sense to put the lives of Victorians first.
“Everyone should come home safe and sound. 27,000 Victorians were forced onto WorkCover in the last financial year and 24 were killed – everyone a person who did not get home safe and sound. This bill is necessary to focus employers on their responsibility to ensure employees are safe.”
“Bosses who have total control over the workplace need to stop shirking their responsibility when they are criminally negligent. They are the ones cutting the safety budgets, setting unreasonable deadlines, managing the work processes, and ignoring worker concerns over safety. Good bosses have nothing to fear from this bill – and bad bosses are on notice.”
 CRIMES ACT 1958, s5. “Whosoever is convicted of manslaughter shall be liable to level 3 imprisonment (20 years maximum).”
 OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT 2004, s21.
Edwina Byrne 0409 017 140