TWO Ballarat families have been credited with the creation of new laws enshrining industrial manslaughter as an offence in this state after a Bill passed Victoria's parliament late last night.
From July 1 next year, employers who negligently cause a workplace death will face fines of up to $16.5 million and individuals will face up to 20 years in jail.
The offence will fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and will apply to employers, self-employed people and 'officers' of the company or organisation.
The Bill passed the state's Legislative Council just before midnight, going through the house unamended 24-16.
Labor relied on votes from the Transports Matters, Greens, Dr Catherine Cumming, Fiona Patten and Justice Party's Andy Meddick to secure the vote.
Wendouree MP Juliana Addison was with Dave and Janine Brownlee, whose son Jack died as result of a workplace incident in Deacombe in March 2018, for the debate. She also spoke with Lana Cormie, the wife of Charlie Howkins, who died in the same incident.
The Brownlees were in attendance throughout the entire debate.
Speaking to The Courier this morning, Ms Addison said the law would start on July 1 next year which would allow time for workcover operations, the coroner and police to receive adequate training.
"We promised we'd do it. One year and three days after being elected this has been enshrined in law," Ms Addison said.
"It's true that often things like this can take years. This is due to the extraordinary the work the Attorney General and her team
"But lets be really clear, it's the Brownlee's, Lana Cormie and the other families that can take the credit. It was their stories and that convinced the community why these laws were so important for everyone."
Earlier this month, the State Government announced a $10 million package to boost WorkSafe's investigation and enforcement capacity, with a specialist team established to lead investigations and prosecutions of workplace manslaughter.
The package also includes clear protocols in place between WorkSafe and Victoria Police that require families to be notified as soon as possible after a workplace death or a serious injury, and including truck drivers killed on the road in the workplace death toll, ensuring these deaths get the focus they deserve.
WorkSafe Victoria will investigate the new offence using their powers under the OHS Act to ensure non-compliant employers can be prosecuted.
Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy said there is nothing more important than every worker coming home safe every day."
"I can't begin to imagine the pain felt by the families who have lost a loved one at work. I don't want any families to suffer that type of trauma," Ms Hennessy said
"We're standing up for working people - and better protecting those touched by tragedy - because workers deserve a safe environment when they go to work each and every day."