Following the recent tragic death of an apprentice whilst working on a university construction site, industrial manslaughter laws are once again in the spotlight in WA.
After its introduction into the Parliament in November 2019, the Standing Committee on Legislation has scrutinised The Work Health and Safety Bill 2019 (WHS Bill) in detail. The Bill's duty, offence and penalty provisions have all been under the microscope.
On Wednesday the WHS Bill passed the Legislative Council with amendments which will now be tabled for approval by the Legislative Assembly. This change brings Western Australia in line with Queensland, Victoria and the ACT which have all introduced the "industrial manslaughter" offence.
The outcome of the Legislative Assembly is expected to be known around 3 November this year, with the legislation and supporting regulations coming into effect next year.
What will change?
The WHS Bill will replace the existing Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA) and imposes a primary duty of care requiring persons conducting a business or undertaking to reasonably ensure the health and safety of workers. The WHS Bill introduces an increase in penalties and enforceable undertakings as an alternative to such penalties.
A simple offence carries a penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $2,500,000 for an individual or $5,000,000 for a body corporate whereas the criminal offence carries a penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $5,000,000 fine for an individual or $10,000,000 for a body corporate. Further to this, the Bill will make it illegal for insurance companies to indemnify entities against monetary penalties imposed under workplace health and safety laws.
What should my business do to prepare?
Dangerous work environments are inherent to certain industries, but employers should bear in mind that even low risk industries need proper safety frameworks in place. Workplace bullying and harassment constitute risks to health and safety and these risks arise in all organisations.
With a few months before the new legislation takes effect, now is the time to review your risk management systems, training regimes and occupational health and safety policies.
Directors and key managers should have a thorough understanding of their personal duties and ensure that their business is compliant with the WHS Bill.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.