Industrial Manslaughter laws not a solution for workplace safety

Western Australia’s peak industry and business advocates warn the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws will not reduce workplace deaths and call on all Parliamentarians to take a more common-sense approach to improving workplace safety in the State.

The Chamber of Commerce (CCIWA) and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) support practical measures to improve workplace safety but punitive laws for employers in other jurisdictions have had no impact on eliminating onsite fatalities.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCI) Chief Executive Officer Chris Rodwell said any workplace fatality is one too many and the number of work-related deaths has declined nationally from 3 deaths per 1000 workers in 2007 to 1.5 deaths per 1000 in 2016.

“We share the State Government’s commitment to prevent workplace deaths, but industrialmanslaughter laws will not achieve this,” Mr Rodwell said. “Rather it will distract the Government from tackling the hard questions of why workplace fatalities occur and what practical steps can be taken to address this issue.”

“To date, there has been inadequate consultation with industry by the Government to fully understand the implications of their policy.”

“There are already adequate laws in place which deal with individuals who negligently or purposefully contribute to a person’s death and there isa greater risk that industrial manslaughter laws will have a negative impact on safety outcomes by fostering a culture of blame.

“We would rather employers and workers focussed on improving safety outcomes instead of defending themselves,” he said. Increasing the number of Worksafe inspectors is a good starting point in helping to improve workplace safety and we will continue to work collaboratively with the Government on practical measures that can make our workplaces safer.

“We call on the Opposition and members of the crossbench to oppose the Government’s proposal and take a more common-sense approach.”

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy Chief Executive Officer Paul Everingham said that safety is already the primary objective within the resources industry and the regulator has significant powers under existing WA safety and health legislation.

“We firmly believe that any wrongdoing which contributes to injury or death on a work site should be dealt with by the justice system and there are adequate laws in place to deal with individuals,” Mr Everingham said.

“In the case of serious noncompliance with existing work, health and safety standards there are options to prosecute those who are responsible, including the use of criminal code manslaughter provisions.

“Industry and government work well together to maintain and improve workplace safety and we welcome Premier Mark McGowan’s plan to bolster WorkSafe’s resources and presence at workplaces across our state.

“WorkSafe and Resources Safety inspectorshave an important role in both enforcing health and safety standards and educating workplaces on safe work practices,” he said.