The Western Australian government is currently in the process of reviewing its industrial manslaughter laws and is considering increasing the penalties for employers who are found to be criminally negligent to up to 20 years imprisonment.
The parents of a worker who was killed in October of 2007 are lobbying for the industrial manslaughter legislation after their son’s employer was fined merely $90,000 and each director an additional $45,000.
The WA Government introduced the industrial manslaughter legislation in February, proposing the new penalties for employers. However, the progress of the bill has been halted after being sent to a Legislative Council committee for further consideration.
There is opposition from employer groups regarding the new laws, including construction, mining, and farming industries, as well as regional councils.
The executive director of the Western Australian branch of the Master Builders Association explained that there is no evidence that the laws would improve safety on job sites.
“We think shared responsibility [between employers and employees] and a good safety culture is the way to do that, not an increase to punitive measures like industrial manslaughter,” John Gelavis said.
Other opponents include the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, whose president believes it “is a heavy-handed approach, it’s unnecessary, the legislation that currently exists is well and truly strong enough to cover all the unintended consequences of a worksite injury or accident.”
“I have had first-hand experience of this. Sometimes you just have employees that will not take responsibility for themselves and at the end of the day, it is unrealistic to sheet that back home to the employer.”
Minister of Industrial Relations Bill Johnson has thrown his support behind the bill, and is disappointed by the delays.
“But what this committee will do is remove any excuse to delay the passage of the legislation,” Mr Johnston said.
“[However] I have always been prepared to accept amendments if they are sensible and do not undermine the important issue of holding everybody to account in the health and safety system.”
The recommendations are due to be handed down in August.