Feedback sought on amendments to laws to introduce industrial manslaughter
The Economic Policy Scrutiny Committee is seeking comments and feedback on the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Amendment Bill 2019 (the Bill) which will introduce the new offence of industrial manslaughter.
The Committee is to inquire into and report on:
- whether the Assembly should pass the Bill;
- whether the Assembly should amend the Bill;
- whether the Bill has sufficient regard to the rights and liberties of individuals; and
- whether the Bill has sufficient regard to the institution of Parliament.
Submissions should be sent to EPSC@nt.gov.au by close of business Tuesday, 8 October 2019.
Information on the Economic Policy Scrutiny Committee and the inquiry into the Bill can be found on the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory website.
Why is the offence being introduced?
The proposed industrial manslaughter offence will ensure all businesses, regardless of the business size, face the same level of penalty if reckless or negligent conduct has caused a workplace fatality.
Currently, individuals can be charged with manslaughter for a workplace fatality under the Northern Territory’s Criminal Code. This means an individual operating a small business as a sole trader, in a partnership or trustee of a trust can face a maximum penalty of life in prison.
There is no equivalent penalty for a body corporate under the Criminal Code and the maximum fine currently for a body corporate under the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 is $3 million for a Category 1 offence.
The introduction of industrial manslaughter is also a key recommendation from the Best practice review of workplace health and safety in the NT conducted by Mr Tim Lyons.
It is also a recommendation in the report Review of the model WHS laws, a national review commissioned by Safe Work Australia.
No additional duties
Industrial manslaughter does not impose any additional duties. The introduction of the offence affects available penalties for breaches, not existing safety duties.
The maximum penalty for an individual is imprisonment for life whether the individual is prosecuted under the existing or new manslaughter offence.
For a body corporate, the maximum penalty is 65,000 penalty units, $10,075,000 under 2019-20 penalty unit rate.
Safeguards against malicious accusations
A charge of industrial manslaughter will only be considered if the NT WorkSafe investigation found reckless or negligent conduct caused the fatality. The type of negligence required is criminal negligence, sometimes referred to as gross negligence, as defined by section 43AL of the Criminal Code. This is a higher standard than the level of negligence required to make a civil claim for compensation.
The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) must consent to the industrial manslaughter charge after reviewing the brief of evidence produced by the investigation. As with all criminal charges, to proceed with a prosecution, the DPP must be satisfied that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction, which means the evidence of the offence needs to be adequate to persuade a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you have any additional questions on the proposed amendments please call NT WorkSafe on 1800 019 115.