Findings of Senate Committee into Industrial Deaths in Australia

October 24 2018

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The Federal Senate Education and Employment References Committee has handed down its findings on the framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia. The report makes a number of recommendations which, if the recommendations are introduced, will see some significant changes.

The report says it is “absolutely necessary” for corporate entities to be held accountable for their actions, including facing prosecution for industrial manslaughter for the worst examples of corporate or individual behaviour.

Several recommendations were released including:

  • Implementing industrial manslaughter laws across Australia making corporate entities to be held accountable for their actions.
  • Including within the WHS Act, a ban on insurances against fines, changing the legislation to state that such arrangements are unlawful for insurance companies to offer insurance for directors against WHS penalties.
  • Amend the model WHS laws to provide that a WHS regulator must in all relevant circumstances provide a published, written justification for why it chose not to bring a prosecution following an industrial death
  • Amend the model WHS laws to provide for unions, injured workers and their families to bring prosecutions
  • Corporations that repeatedly breach WHS obligations and cause death or serious injury should not be awarded Commonwealth, State or Territory government contracts
  • Amend the model WHS laws to include the establishment of a dedicated WHS prosecutor in each jurisdiction, similar to the model introduced in Queensland
  • Safe Work Australia work with WHS regulators in each jurisdiction to develop a policy which stipulates that all industrial deaths must be investigated as potential crime scenes
  • Safe Work Australia work with WHS regulators to develop a policy to formalise collaboration and evidence sharing between WHS regulators and law enforcement agencies during investigations following an industrial death
  • Safe Work Australia work with Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and WHS regulators to develop and deliver standardised training modules to ensure that all investigators have the appropriate skills, experience and attitude to carry out high-quality investigations of industrial deaths and other serious breaches of WHS laws.