‘Don’t bring in industrial manslaughter laws’, Andrews tells Tas

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‘Don’t bring in industrial manslaughter laws’, Andrews tells Tas

The Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, has called on Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon to give a guarantee that he would not introduce industrial manslaughter laws.

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The Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, has called on Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon to give a guarantee that he would not introduce industrial manslaughter laws.

The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute recently proposed options for workplace health and safety reform which includes introducing a specific industrial manslaughter offence into the Tasmanian criminal code (see previous article ).

Speaking at the Tasmanian WorkSafe Conference, Andrews said: ‘Tasmania should strongly resist the temptation to follow the misguided and ill advised lead of some other states and territories.’ 

Such an approach, Andrews said, will only serve to discourage employers and employees from being closely involved in safety issues, as employers and employees will focus on defending themselves rather than working co-operatively to ensure safer workplaces. 

States creating further uncertainties

Andrews warned all Governments to be ‘wary’ of seeking to amend or impose legislation which, he believes, only ‘serves to create uncertainties for employers’.

Andrews cited recent NSW legislation where employers face up to five years jail and $165 000 fines if they are convicted of causing an employers death through ‘recklessness.’ He criticised the handling of such breaches to be heard by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, rather than a court.

The Minister also accused the NSW and Victorian Governments of using OHS legislation to introduce industrial manslaughter laws ‘by stealth’.

Role of unions

NSW laws which allow unions to prosecute employers for OHS breaches (and if successful receive up to half of the fines awarded), are ‘disturbing’, Andrews said.

‘This creates a perverse incentive for unions to abuse such processes and to prosecute employers for purely financial gain.’

Prevention rather than punishment 

Andrews said the Government believes in ‘fostering a workplace environment which promotes safety, rather than allocates blame’. 

He said the economic cost of workplace accidents to workers, employers and the community is estimated to be in excess of $30 million annually (5% of GDP). 

‘Responsibility for this must be shared by all stakeholders...the answer is not to introduce laws that are punitive and punish the employer above all else. 

‘The best way to address this issue is by promoting a culture where there is cooperation between employers and employees.’ 

The Tasmanian WorkSafe Conference 2005 runs from 27-28 October, as part of Safe Work Australia Week. 

Related 

Industrial manslaughter laws should be consistent: AMMA 

 

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