South Australia proposes tougher penalties under industrial manslaughter bill

Two decades behind bars, $18 million fines proposed for reckless or negligent conduct breaching health and safety laws

South Australia proposes tougher penalties under industrial manslaughter bill

South Australian employers could be penalised with up to two decades in jail or receive fines of up to $18 million under a new industrial manslaughter bill proposed by the state government.

Under the Work Health and Safety (Industrial Manslaughter) Amendment Bill, the government wants tougher penalties for employers in case an employee dies in the workplace.

Individuals can face a maximum penalty of up to 20 years behind bars, while companies can be fined by up to $18 million if they are reckless or grossly negligent in conduct which breaches a work health and safety duty, according to the bill.

"Industrial manslaughter laws recognise that, while tragic workplace incidents do occur from time to time, it's not an accident when people deliberately cut corners and place worker's lives at risk. It's a crime and it will be treated like one," said SA Attorney-General Kyam Maher in a statement.

According to the state government, the proposed bill does not impose any new duties for employers but ensures that if workplace health and safety duties are breached, they will receive their appropriate punishment.

"This legislation sends a clear message to any dodgy operators that are reckless or grossly negligent with their workers' health and safety that they will be held to account," Maher said.

The bill, however, prompted concerns from the business sector, who commented on SafeWork SA's enforcement capability.

"SafeWork SA is not adequately resourced to be able to enforce this piece of legislation," Karen Van Gorp, Business SA senior policy adviser, told 7News.

Preventable workplace accidents

The state government said the new penalties recognise the significant loss suffered by families of workers who died in preventable workplace incidents.

"I pay tribute to the many families of victims of workplace incidents who have campaigned for these laws. I hope these changes to the legislation will ensure no family has to experience this again," Maher said.

This year, there have been 69 preliminary worker deaths across Australia as of June 22, according to data from SafeWork. Majority came from the Transport, Postal, and Warehousing industry (24), followed by Construction (13), and then by the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (8) industries.

According to the attorney-general, the introduction of the new penalties also puts the state in line with Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory that have industrial manslaughter laws.

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