First Industrial Manslaughter decision in Western Australia

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First Industrial Manslaughter decision in Western Australia

For the first time in the state’s history, a Western Australian company director has been sentenced to jail after pleading guilty to gross negligence leading to the death of a 25-year old worker and the serious injury of another worker. The prosecution in Western Australia is consistent with the introduction of the crime of industrial manslaughter in other jurisdictions, including Queensland,

Mr W, a director of MT Sheds (WA) Pty Ltd, was sentenced to two years and two months in jail following the death of a young worker in 2020. The state statutory authority claimed it was the longest term of imprisonment ever imposed in Australia for a work health and safety offence. In addition to the company director’s imprisonment, the company was fined an amount of $550,000.

The workplace fatality arose from two workers installing roof sheets on a large machinery shed that they were building on a farm without appropriate safety control measures in place. The subsequent investigation revealed that either a strong wind or `willy-wally’ lifted a single roof sheet from the nearby stack of sheets, causing both employees to fall from a significant height.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanaugh commented that the deceased employee, “fell approximately nine metres from the apex of the roof, suffering fatal injuries, while (the co-worker) fell around seven metres from the roof’s edge near the gutter line, suffering multiple fractures of the pelvis, hip, wrist and ribs”.

In regard to the company, Commissioner Kavanagh stated, “they completely failed in every sense to provide a safe workplace for their employees, and as a consequence, a young man lost his life, and a family lost a loved one”.

Legislative obligations in Queensland require employers to provide a safe place of work and safe systems of work, similar to Western Australia.

Under the Western Australia WHS Act, convictions for industrial manslaughter can result in individuals facing a maximum fine of $5 million and/or up to 20 years in jail, or corporations face a $10 million fine.

With Australian jurisdictions introducing such laws, we have not seen the small business community fully comprehend these significant changes in the workplace or the boardroom.

For queries about safety obligations and requirements, or any other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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