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Victorian workplace manslaughter laws now in effect

A united group of nine industry bodies have come together to tell those working in the construction industry to treat the current COVID-19 situation with the highest importance and adhere to all recommended safety procedures.

Workplace manslaughter is now a criminal offence in Victoria, with employers found to be negligent facing up to 25 years in jail or fines of up to $16.5 million.

The new laws come into effect from 1 July 2020 and applies to employers, self-employed people and ‘officers’ of the employer. It also applies when an employer’s negligent conduct causes the death of a member of the public.

WorkSafe Victoria will investigate new offences of workplace manslaughter using the powers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

The Victorian government has also broadened the criteria that defines a workplace death. From now this includes fatalities that occur on the road while working, suicides attributable to a workplace health and safety failure, deaths from industrial diseases such as silicosis, and workplace deaths resulting from a criminal act. All of these will be recognised in the WorkSafe toll.

Changes mean more Victorians will be entitled to WorkSafe family support services following the death of a loved one at work and broader reporting is hoped to bring increased focus to workplace health and safety issues.

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So far this year 25 people across Victoria have lost their lives in workplace incidents.

To help small and medium sized businesses prepare, the state government has rolled out a wide ranging education campaign.

The laws are supported by a $10 million package to improve investigation and enforcement of workplace safety laws, including a specialist WorkSafe team to lead investigations and prosecutions, and two additional WorkSafe Victoria Family Liaison Officers to give families more support.

A Workplace Incidents Consultative Committee will be established to develop further reforms to provide support to those affected by workplace fatalities and serious incidents.

This will be supported with $4 million in funding and include people who have lost a family member at work or have suffered a serious workplace injury or illness.

Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy said if an employer’s negligence costs someone their life, they will be prosecuted and may go to jail.

“We’re increasing the support available to families who have lost someone at work, as well as establishing a new committee led by families who know the pain of such a tragic event, to drive further reforms,” she said.

“Broadening the definition of a workplace fatality will help better identify and address the true extent of workplace health and safety issues in Victoria.”

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