Resource sector operators in Queensland have a greater obligation to ensure health and safety protocols are strictly followed, with new industrial manslaughter penalties now enforced on the industry.
Creevey Russell Lawyers Principal Dan Creevey said organisations and their most senior directors and supervisors will face severe consequences should one of their workers be fatally injured on the job.
Mr Creevey said the offence of industrial manslaughter under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 has been mirrored and included in the safety legislation for the mining, explosives, petroleum and gas industries in Queensland.
“Industrial manslaughter is a very serious offence and a guilty corporation can be fined up to $13.3 million and an individual can face a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment,” Mr Creevey said.
“The recent focus on this legislation demonstrates the importance of a company having a safety management system.
“A company, or a senior officer, can be liable for industrial manslaughter if a worker dies in the course of carrying out work for the company; the company, or senior officer’s conduct caused the death of the worker; and the company, or senior officer, was negligent about causing the death of the worker.
“The ‘conduct’ of the company or senior officer would usually relate to a failure to ensure that appropriate safety measures are in place.”
Creevey Russell Crime and Misconduct division lawyer Craig van der Hoven said the obligation to ensure proper safety protocol also extends to the duty of care owed to customers by service providing companies.
Mr van der Hoven said a recent example is the tragic 2019 incident that involved the drowning deaths of two Japanese students who were part of an eco-tour on Fraser Island.
“The director of the tour company has been charged with exposing the students to a risk of death or serious injury, while a teacher involved has been charged with failing his health and safety duty,” he said.
Mr van der Hoven said health and safety inspectors are also able to enter a workplace and require persons to provide access to documents and answer questions put to them by the inspector.
“There is no ‘right to silence’ and the company must answer all questions put to them by the inspector, even if it may tend to incriminate the person or expose them to penalty,” he said.