Australia’s highest work safety fine and the offence of workplace manslaughter were introduced to the Victorian Parliament on 29 October 2019 as part of the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019. The Bill amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

The Bill introduces the offence of workplace manslaughter under section 39G. Under section 39G, a person must not engage in negligent conduct that breaches an applicable duty owed to another person and causes the death of that person.

The maximum penalty for a breach of section 39G include fines of up to 100,000 penalty units, currently equating to $16,522,000, for employers that negligently cause a workplace death.

An individual or officer who negligently causes a work-related death in Victoria could be jailed for up to 20 years, as in Queensland.

An applicable duty refers to a duty imposed by Part 3 of the Act, such as the duty to provide and maintain a safe working environment, with the exception of the duties set out in section 25 (relating to employee duties) and section 32 (relating to reckless endangerment).

Conduct under section 39G includes an act OR an omission to perform an act.

Under the Bill, negligent conduct is defined as:

  • a great falling short of the standard of care that would have been taken by a reasonable  person in the circumstances in which the conduct was engaged in; and
  • causes a high risk of death, serious injury or serious illness.

The Bill also provides that a proceeding for a workplace manslaughter offence may be brought at any time.

The workplace manslaughter offence applies to employers, self-employed people and the officers of employers.

It also applies to an employer’s negligent conduct that causes the death of a member of the public, compelling duty holders to ensure safety both in and around workplaces.