Under the industrial manslaughter laws preferred by Labor, those who operate businesses who are found to have contributed to the deaths of employees by breaking or disregarding workplace safety rules could face 20-year prison sentences or face fines of up to $10 million.
The laws were part of a workplace safety package announced at Labor’s annual state conference by Premier Mark McGowan.
Mr McGowan also announced increased funding of more than 12 million dollars which would be spent recruiting new workplace safety inspectors, to enforce existing WHS laws.
“Negligent or reckless employers must be held accountable for the conditions in their workplaces,” Mr McGowan told the conference.
“The majority of employers and managements who do the right thing need not fear these laws in any way but life is too precious not to set a high bar.
“Jail time is a powerful deterrent and it sends a strong message.”
Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston explained that the changes ‘would bring WA into line with the national model and help reduce costs and unnecessary duplication of processes.’
Our work health and safety laws haven’t been updated since 1984 and are long overdue for change,” he said.
“Developing the Western Australian Work Health and Safety Bill involved an extensive consultative process, and all views submitted have been considered.
“In the interest of employers and employees, this bill will broadly harmonise with the national model to deliver a common approach to occupational health and safety across various jurisdictions.
The proposed changes have been supported by Regan Ballantine, a passionate workplace health and safety advocate, whose son fell to his death at a Perth CBD construction site in 2017.
“These laws are not about retribution or an eye for an eye, they are about changing corporate behaviour and discouraging the prioritisation of profit over people,” she said.
“It’s been long established that financial sanctions are not adequate at discouraging that type of behaviour, especially when the courts are imposing such insignificant penalties as they did in the case of my son, with the $38,000 fine for a guilty plea.”
The laws will be introduced to Parliament before the end of the year.