Victoria considers new manslaughter laws for workplaces

1st February 2019 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

PERTH ( – The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) has warned the Victorian government that new workplace safety laws could give rise to unintended consequences, which could impair rather than enhance the safety at workplaces.

The Victorian government on Friday said that it had started work on workplace manslaughter laws and the establishment of an implementation taskforce, following 23 workplace fatalities in 2018.

As part of the implementation taskforce, the government is establishing a Workplace Fatalities and Serious Incidents Reference Group to ensure that the families of those who have lost loved ones in workplace accidents can contribute to the reforms.

“While individuals have a role to play in keeping themselves and others safe at work, occupational health and safety laws are very clear that the safety of staff is the responsibility of every Victorian employer,” Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy said.

“We’re working with unions, business and the community to implement critical reforms as soon as possible, to save lives and keep Victorian workers safe.”

MCA CEO Tania Constable said on Friday that the manslaughter laws proposed by the state government would not contribute to general or specific deterrence or improvements in health and safety outcomes. 

“This must be the priority, not imposing oppressive and unnecessary criminal liability on selected individuals.

“The MCA supports a legislative framework that achieves healthy and safe workplaces and provides for appropriate responses to where serious offences are proven.”

Constable said that enforcement must be based on the desire to improve occupational health and safety (OHS) standards at Victorian workplaces and prevent further incidents by fostering prompt sharing of safety lessons across industry.

“Detailed and meaningful consultation on any amendments to OHS law, focusing on prevention and reporting, with all relevant stakeholders, including the minerals industry, needs to be undertaken by the Victorian government to provide the sector and the community confidence in healthy and safe workplaces,” she said.