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Industry expresses scepticism over industrial manslaughter legislation

Australia’s peak industrial body for the heavy construction materials industry has voiced serious reservations about a proposed industrial manslaughter offence in Queensland for senior quarry professionals in the event of an on-site fatality.

Under new legislation proposed by Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham, mine and quarry company executives could be tried for industrial manslaughter if criminal negligence is proven for a workers’ death. The maximum penalties range up to $13 million and 20 years’ jail.

Lynham said the legislation, tabled in the Queensland Parliament last week, would bring resources workplaces in line with all other workplaces within the state.

Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia’s (CCAA) Queensland state director Aaron Johnstone told Quarry the organisation would closely review the legislation and provide a submission to the Parliamentary Committee reviewing the bill.

“We continue to have strong reservations about the introduction of industrial manslaughter provisions, particularly as the current laws already have serious penalties for negligence and wilful misconduct,” he said.

“We will particularly examine the definition of ‘senior officer in the bill, the alignment between the bill and the general workplace health and safety legislation, the definitions of criminal negligence, and the role of the workplace health and safety prosecutor.”

Johnstone said the quarrying industry had worked hard over many years to improve safety on its sites. It was vital that any law reform supported the efforts and helped improve the overall safety and health performance of the sector.

“We remain unconvinced that the introduction of industrial manslaughter provisions will facilitate this,” Johnstone added.

IQA President Shane Braddy said that while the Institute had queries about the impact that the introduction of industrial manslaughter provisions will have on overall safety outcomes, it will support industry members to understand the legislation, their obligations and any changes.

“The IQA will continue to provide training on all areas of health and safety, including safety management systems, hazard identification and safety leadership,” Braddy said. “The IQA will work closely with industry and the regulator to educate the industry on the provisions, what they mean and support the industry to be able to operate in the safest possible way.

“The IQA will ensure access to information is available through various events such as the Health and Safety seminar and the Queensland branches.”

Protecting workers

Lynham said it was totally unacceptable that workers continue to die in resources workplaces.

Queensland already has the toughest mine safety and health laws in the world,” he said. “These laws will give our 50,000 mine and quarry workers the same protections as other Queensland workers.”

Lynham said the new laws were part of a suite of sweeping mine safety and health reforms under the Palaszczuk Government.

“The most important product to come off a mine site or a quarry at the end of a shift is not minerals, or coal, it’s a worker, heading home to family and friends,” he said. “This Labor Government will always act to protect workers.”

The reforms proposed by the government include:

  • Better detection and prevention of black lung, and an improved safety net for affected workers.
  • Increased maximum penalties for offences to $4 million and powers for the regulator to issue fines without going to court.
  • Statewide safety reset sessions for mine and quarry workers to refocus on health and safety.
  • $35 million to deliver reforms to improve the safety and health of mine workers.
  • A commitment to tighter controls on mine dust levels.
  • Legislation debated in January to establish an independent resources health and safety authority.
  • Extra mines inspectors.

More reading

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