Company officers now accountable for work-related death

As of 1 July 2020 a new law is in place that poses a major risk for Board Members and Company Executives.

What has changed?

The Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and other matters) Bill 2019 (Bill) came into effect on 1 July 2020 after being passed in Parliament last November 2019.

The Bill states that people who owe applicable duties to ensure the health and safety of another person in the workplace, can now be charged with workplace manslaughter. This includes those who are a body corporate, an unincorporated body or association or a partnership, including government entities and officers of these entities. It excludes employees and volunteers.

Workplace manslaughter explained

Workplace manslaughter involves an employer’s negligent conduct (action or inaction) which causes the death of an employee or member of the public. The legislation is designed to prevent workplace deaths, due to a strengthened legal framework for dealing with employer occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibilities.

There are three basic criteria for an employer (or officer) to potentially fall foul of this new law:

  1. The employer’s (or officer’s) negligence
  2. The employer’s (or officer’s) breach of a duty owed to an individual
  3. The result being the death of an individual.

 

Workplace manslaughter will apply to deaths resulting from physical injuries, as well as certain situations of workplace related mental injury which leads to suicide. The penalties include significant fines and jail terms of up to 20 years for company officers who negligently cause a work-related death.

 

This represents a new personal risk to company officers (Board and Executive) who are negligent in protecting their employees and the broader community. If you would like further information or you are seeking further assistance or direction, please contact our internal audit team via phone on 03 5443 0344 or email us at afs@afsbendigo.com.au.