Workplace Manslaughter: Now a Criminal Offence in Victoria

Several months back, the State Government has strongly expressed that workplace manslaughter is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Thus, the birth of workplace manslaughter laws. So what exactly is this law all about? It is essentially a law that proves that employers who put their employees’ lives at risk will not be tolerated. It is a grave offence and this law will make employers be held accountable for their actions.

After much-needed discussion, workplace manslaughter has now been approved as a criminal offence and has been in effect starting July 1st, 2020. Employers that have been proven negligent that caused the death of an employee will have to face fines up to $16.5 million or up to 25 years in prison once proven guilty. The number of Victorians who passed away while at work has been too many to ignore. It’s about time the government takes action.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, Worksafe Victoria will lead investigations about such offenses occurred in the workplace. This applies to employers and their officers, plus self-employed individuals. This law assures that reforms in workplace safety should be made. According to the recent media release, “From today, fatalities that occur on the road while working, suicides attributable to a workplace health and safety failure, deaths from industrial diseases such as silicosis, and workplace deaths resulting from a criminal act, will all be recognised in the WorkSafe toll.”

Accidents happen a lot. We can’t always guarantee that things will not take a turn for the worst, but there must be provisions for Victorians. This change would also mean that Victorians will be entitled to Worksafe family support services. Worksafe family support services were established to provide support for families who lost a loved one caused by an accident at work. It is also designed to bring more focus on issues regarding workplace health and safety.

To provide more information regarding the new laws, the Government began an education campaign specifically for small to medium businesses. Along with the new laws, investigation and workplace safety laws will be improved that will be carried out by the WorkSafe team. A Workplace Incidents Consultative Committee is also said to be created that will make the necessary reforms to provide more support to those affected by fatalities at work, as well as other serious incidents. An additional $4 million in funding is allotted for this very initiative.

According to Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy, “If an employer’s negligence costs someone their life, they will be prosecuted and may go to jail – that’s now the law.”

Hopefully, with this approved law, more employers will realize that negligence is a serious issue. An employee’s health and safety should always come first. For a business to grow, employees must be taken care of. The Workplace Manslaughter law will give employers a sense of accountability. Jill Hennessy adds, “Broadening the definition of a workplace fatality will help better identify and address the true extent of workplace health and safety issues in Victoria.”

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