By Carlen Lowe.

Following the workplace tragedy at Eagle Farm Racecourse and the heartbreaking incident at Dreamworld last year, the Palaszczuk Government conducted a review into the current Work Health and Safety (WHS) framework.

Under the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, the government has proposed legislative changes to create a new criminal offence of industrial manslaughter in Queensland.  The proposed offence will attract a maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter of 20 years imprisonment for an individual, with a maximum fine of $10 million for a corporate offender.

The Bill also proposes:

  • the establishment of an independent statutory office for work health and safety prosecutions. This will transfer the current functions of the Regulator to the WHS Prosecutor who will head this new office.  The prosecutorial role does not affect the requirement for indictable offences, such as the new offence of industrial manslaughter, to be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for decision and action;
  • to address issue resolution matters by expanding the jurisdiction of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC ) to include hearing and determining work health and safety disputes and the review of reviewable decisions;
  • to restore the status of codes of practice as existed under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 and such codes to be reviewed every 5 years. Safety measures in a code of practice are to be followed unless it is shown there are equal or better measures;
  • to reintroduce the role of Workplace Health and Safety officer (WHSO) as existed under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995. The role is a discretionary requirement for employers but the engagement of a WHSO can be used as evidence that an employer has taken steps to manage health and safety risks;
  • to establish a framework of health and safety representatives (HSRs) to ensure compliance with the WHS Act.

The Bill was introduced and referred to the Committee for review today, 23 August 2017.