IT is clear that sweeping change is needed in Australia’s workplace safety regime after the handing down of a report in the Senate this week says Ballarat Federal MP Catherine King.
Ms King comments come after a 120-page Education and Employment Committee’s report was released in the Senate this week detailing 34 recommendations for the future of workplace safety in Australia.
The inquiry was initiated by Labor and comes on the back of the loss of two men in a trench collapse in Delacombe in March.
Ms King said up until October 4 this year, 97 Australians had lost their lives in workplaces “all of which are absolutely and utterly avoidable”.
“It is clear that the workplace safety regime here in Australia is not right,” Ms King said.
“We should have penalties to make sure employers are held to account that are a strong deterrent and to make sure that work places have the best possible occupational health and safety (OHS).
Ms King said the Victorian Government was leading the way in trying to introduce industrial manslaughter laws, something the families of trench victims Charlie Howkins and Jack Brownlee are campaigning for.
“The Victorian State Government has pursued industrial manslaughter laws, they’ll certainly be something we take into consideration,” she said.
“You’ve got to look at the whole way in which the legislative and regulatory regime works in relation to workplace safety and I think it’s clear it’s not working in Australia.
While the federal government is supportive of some of the recommendations, it rejects the need for an industrial manslaughter law. “Recommendation 13 is not supported,” the government said in its response to the report.
“The introduction of industrial manslaughter laws would not take account of the serious, criminal sanctions already in place for workplace fatalities in the model Work Health Safety (WHS) laws and in general criminal laws.
“It introduces potentially overlapping offences and are likely to complicate rather than support accountability, with no clear evidence of successfully reducing the risk of workplace fatalities.”
The Coalition said to introduce industrial manslaughter laws undermines the efficacy of existing harmonised work health and safety laws across Australia.
“It is important not to adopt proposals that could result in poorer outcomes for Australian workers,” they said.
“In addition, we are concerned that that industrial manslaughter laws would expose employers and managers to the risk lengthy prison terms even where they are unjustly accused of being responsible for incidents in the workplace.”
READ MORE: Workplace deaths families unite
The Greens want the laws to go even further.
”The creation of a new offence of industrial manslaughter has long been Greens policy and we welcome moves by the Committee and other political parties towards this end,” they said.
“We would also like to see as a general principle that industrial deaths include all work related deaths, and not just traumatic fatalities, as this would more accurately reflect the impact on workers and would allow their families access to appropriate remedies.
“In particular, deaths caused by work related diseases and suicides should also be covered.”
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