First Charges Laid Under Queensland’s New Industrial Manslaughter Laws

Published October 28, 2019 (last updated July 20, 2020) -

An recycling business has been charged for industrial manslaughter by Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Prosecutor, in a historic first use of the state’s industrial manslaughter laws.

In May earlier this year a worker was killed after being hit by a reversing forklift at the business, located in the southern suburbs of Brisbane.

Following investigations by Queensland Police and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, the case was passed on to the Queensland Office of the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor.

Two company directors have also been hit separately with charges of engaging in reckless conduct that resulted in the death of a worker.

The WHS Prosecutor,  Aaron Guilfoyle said that the recycling business and its directors had ‘failed’ to protect the safety of its workers.

“The charge of industrial manslaughter includes allegations that [the auto recycler] caused the death of their worker by failing to effectively separate pedestrians from mobile plant, and failed to effectively supervise workers, including the operators of mobile plant,”Guilfoyle said.

“The charges against [the directors] relate to their failure as directors to ensure that the business had those systems in place.”

Grace Grace, the Queensland Minister for Industrial Relations, said the new manslaughter laws would shake up bad attitudes towards workplace health and safety.

“Just over two years ago, the Palaszczuk Government introduced tough new laws aimed at protecting Queensland workers. They are the first of their kind to be introduced by a state jurisdiction and leave negligent employers culpable in workplace deaths with nowhere to hide,” Grace said.

“Individuals guilty of industrial manslaughter will face up to 20 years imprisonment, with corporate offenders liable for fines of up to $10 million.”

This case is likely to have significant reverberations around Australia, as the calls for industrial manslaughter laws become louder.

The Western Australian and Victorian state governments, as well as the Northern Territory, have publicly announced this year they’ll introduce industrial manslaughter laws, joining ACT and Queensland as jurisdictions with such laws.

South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and New South Wales currently do not have manslaughter laws nor plans to introduce them.

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