Industrial manslaughter Bill on Senate agenda

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Industrial manslaughter Bill on Senate agenda

It is unlikely that a Private Senators Bill, introduced by the Greens to make industrial manslaughter a federal offence, will be passed.

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It is unlikely that a Private Senators Bill, introduced by the Greens to make industrial manslaughter a federal offence, will be passed.

Senator Kerry Nettle introduced the bill to the Senate today, which if passed would make negligent employers responsible for the death or serious injury of workers. The proposed bill is similar to that recently passed in the ACT. 

Senator Nettle described the number of worker fatalities in Australia every year as ‘carnage’, and singled out the building and construction industries for particular attention. 

‘A person who negligently drives a car and causes the death or grievous bodily harm of another will face jail,’ said Senator Nettle told the Senate. ‘It is patently ridiculous that employers have immunity from imprisonment when the negligently kill workers at work but face the full wrath of the law if they negligently kill that very same person at home or on the street.’

However a Labor Party spokesperson told WorkplaceInfo that it was unlikely the Labor Party would support the Bill, effectively ruling out any chance of it being passed in the Senate. 

‘Certainly there is some support in the Labor Party for the principles of industrial manslaughter,’ said a spokesperson for Labor’s Industrial Relations Minister Craig Emerson. ‘But the Labor Party’s stand on this issue is that we support States and Territories to decide their own jurisdiction on this. This is really a State issue.’

The Federal Government also opposes the introduction of industrial federal legislation.

The ACT is the only jurisdiction in Australia to have introduced industrial manslaughter legislation, but it exempts federal employers from prosecution. It provides for criminal penalties of up to 25 years’ jail and $250,000 in fines for individuals who are found to have recklessly or negligently caused a worker’s death, and up to $5million in fines for a corporation. NSW is also considering introducing legislation following recommendations by an expert panel, including possible jail terms for employers who offend. 

According to NOHSC, there were 297 workplace fatalities in Australia in 2001/2002. A comparison of the various industries using an incident rate per 1000 workers finds that the transport and storage industry had the most fatalities, followed by mining, agriculture, forestries and fisheries, and then construction. 

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