The Queensland Government passed new legislation, which came into effect on 1 July, 2020, which seeks to impose heavy penalties on companies, their executives and their senior employees personally for workplace deaths arising from negligence (industrial manslaughter). These laws are similar to Industrial Manslaughter laws that already apply to other industries in Queensland (like building and construction), but now apply to workers in the resources sector, and reach much further.

The new laws create a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment not just for individuals who hold executive offices of a company, but also those senior employees who take part in the making of decisions affecting the company’s operations, even if their influence on those decisions is limited.

The new laws also exclude section 23 of the Criminal Code, which provides a defence to criminal manslaughter for unforeseeable and unintentional acts, meaning it is likely it will be more difficult to defend charges arising under these laws.

The amendments have come about following a spate of recent safety incidents in Queensland mines and they have the potential to have major implications for all workers in the resources industry.

It is important that companies and their employees understand the extent of their exposure under these new laws and take action to ensure they are protected. This includes ensuring you are informed about the new requirements, updating and enforcing your policies, procedures and safety measures to ensure best practice compliance, focusing on training, look at your employment structures, keeping detailed and appropriate records, and consider personal asset protection.

We will provide further detailed information and seminars about legal issues regarding work health and safety and Industrial Manslaughter in the coming weeks, to assist you to navigate these new risks.

If you would like advice on how you and your business can protect itself, please contact our expert Workplace and Industrial Relations Team on 4963 0888.