Published: 29 Oct 2020
Western Australia's parliament has passed industrial manslaughter laws which will enforce a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment for workplace deaths.
Unions including the CFMEU campaigned fiercely for passage of the Work Health and Safety Bill. Last week, workers rallied outside Parliament House just days after construction apprentice Jonnie Hartshorn was killed on the job at Curtin University.
The new bill includes penalties of between five and 20 years, imprisonment for individual employers and a maximum $10 million fine for companies who knowingly engage in conduct resulting in an employee's death on site.
Employers who neglect the safety of their employees, even if they could not have known it would cause their death, could be jailed for five years.
Employers will also be prohibited from using insurance coverage to cover work health and safety penalties.
Unions WA secretary Owen Whittle said it was a historic occasion and WA would have the strongest workplace safety laws in Australia.
“WA will go from having the weakest and most outdated workplace safety laws to having the best in Australia.
“Rightly, the headline reform has been the introduction, for the first time in WA, of an offence of industrial manslaughter.
“If a negligent driver causing a fatal accident can be charged with manslaughter, so too should an employer that badly mismanages a dangerous workplace.
“Workplace rights such as those for safety, are won by disciplined struggle over many years by union members and that has been true for this reform.”
CFMEU Mining and Energy WA Secretary Greg Busson said unions had fought hard for the new laws which would add an extra layer of protection for workers.
“We need real disincentives like jail time for employers for risking workers’ safety, especially when big bucks from coal or iron ore production are at stake. A slap on the wrist isn’t enough.
“As usual the LNP and One Nation stalled and attempted to dilute the Bill. But the rally was a turning point for change. This is a great reform by the McGowan Government.”