With penalties of up to $10 million and 20 years imprisonment, the cost of not meeting your WHS obligations just got personal.
Business owners and managers are on notice after a Queensland electrician who traded as Cold Spark Pty Ltd, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years jail.
The court found that the business owner did not pay enough attention to his safety obligations, resulting in the tragic death of a young labourer working on a building site that the business was contracted to do work for.
“The case is important because it sets the benchmark for the new WHS industrial manslaughter offence in Queensland (and no doubt similar offences across the county),” says Alan Girle, Director, Australian Business Lawyers & Advisor.
In 2017, the Queensland government added industrial manslaughter to the statutes for any business that operates in Queensland. With penalties of up to $10 million and 20 years imprisonment, the new offences send a clear message to the business community that Queensland will be tough on offenders. As part of the legislation, the government also created a new role of “Workplace Health and Safety Prosecutor” with considerable statutory power.
“The sentencing in this case is a harsh reminder that businesses can no longer regard the threat of imprisonment as illusionary,” adds Girle.
“In this new era, whether business owners end up in jail will be down to a combination of the WHS systems in place together with the effectiveness of incident response.”
Girle suggests doing a complete audit of WHS system, and ensuring you have critical incident protocols in place.
“Complacency can be costly,” he says.