The families of two young men tragically killed in a trench collapse in Delacombe are leading a charge to have industrial manslaughter laws introduced in Victoria.
On Friday family members of Jack Brownlee and Charlie Howkins attended the launch of Victorian Trades Hall Council’s campaign to make industrial manslaughter a crime.
At the rally on the eve of International Workers Memorial Day, boots were laid out for the 26 Victorians who were killed at work over the past year.
Ms Cormie said “it was incredibly moving and tragic to see so many pairs of empty boots at the workers memorial service”.
“There are far too many,” Ms Cormie said number of workplace fatalities in Victoria.
“Something needs to change and it should start with the laws being strengthened to include industrial manslaughter in Victoria.”
The laws have long been established in the United Kingdom and Canada, while Queensland and the ACT have both passed forms of the legislation.
Under the Queensland laws established in October 2017 individual offenders face up to 20 years imprisonment, with a maximum fine of $10 million for a corporate offender if an employee is killed on a worksite.
Victoria does not have specific laws for such deaths.
“The Victorian people need to get behind this campaign and demand laws which motivate companies to follow the rules,” Ms Cormie said.
Mr Howkins was killed instantly when a trench on the Winterfield site just off the Glenelg Highway collapsed on the morning of Marsh 21.
Mr Brownlee was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital after spending hours stuck in the hole, but died the following morning.
In a statement, WorkSafe said it understood the men were in a “sewer trench which was approximately 3.2 metres deep” when the incident occurred about 11am.
A trench of at least 1.5m deep must have adequate support by shielding or other comparable means, (like) benching and battering.
Worksafe is continuing its investigation into how the men came to be trapped and whether adequate safety procedures were being followed.
In a statement Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Luke Hilakari said the proposed laws would make it possible to seek criminal prosecution for senior managers whose disregard for safety concerns costs a worker their life.
“Families in grief need to know that things will change; that those at fault won’t repeat the behaviours that took a life away,” the statement read.
The Courier contacted Attorney General Martin Pakula’s office for comment.