Victoria’s new workplace manslaughter offences

Victoria’s new workplace manslaughter offences

Victoria’s new workplace manslaughter Bill addresses workplace manslaughter and other matters, and has important information for all employers to know.

The Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 passed Parliament on November 26, 2019 and is expected to come into effect by July 1, 2020.

When is it workplace manslaughter?

Workplace manslaughter will be applicable when all elements of an offence are proven and:

  • The accused is a body corporate or a person who is not an employee or volunteer
  • The accused owed the victim a duty of care pursuant to sections 21 to 24 or sections 26 to 31 of the OHS Act (this includes duties owed to employees, contractors and members of the public) (applicable duties)
  • The accused breached that duty by criminal negligence in circumstances where there was a high risk of death, serious injury or serious illness
  • The act that breached the duty of care was committed consciously and voluntarily
  • The accused’s breach of the duty causes the victim’s death.

It may also apply in circumstances where the death occurs sometime after the relevant incident (for example, if an employee develops an asbestos-related disease after being exposed to asbestos without adequate protection).

Who can be charged?

A person, body corporate, unincorporated body or association or partnership, including government entities and officers of these entities (but not employees or volunteers), which owes applicable duties to ensure the health and safety of another person in the workplace, can be charged with Workplace Manslaughter.

What is negligent conduct?

Conduct is considered negligent if it falls short of a reasonable standard of care.

Negligent conduct can include a failure to act.

Examples of negligent conduct may include when a person:

  • Does not adequately manage, control or supervise its employees
  • Does not take reasonable action to fix a dangerous situation, in circumstances where failing to do so causes a high risk of death, serious injury or serious illness.

If it is proven that the negligent conduct caused the death, a maximum of 20 years imprisonment may apply for individuals and a maximum fine of $16.5 million for body corporates.

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