New negligence law created following workplace tragedies

by John Hilton22 May 2017
The Queensland Government will introduce the new offence of “negligence causing death”, following the deaths of two construction workers at Brisbane's Eagle Farm Racecourse.

Humberto Leite, 55, and Ashley Morris, 34, were killed when sandwiched between two slabs of concrete in a construction pit inside the renovated racecourse last year.

The new law follows an interim recommendation from the Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety.

Employment Minister Grace Grace said the Independent Reviewer, Tim Lyons, had written to her advising of his preliminary view that the offence should be created.

“The Government’s support of this recommendation will mean that Mr Lyons can consult with stakeholders to determine the best practice model for introduction and implementation of the offence, rather than further considering the merits of its introduction,” said Grace.

“Of course, the scope of the review is much wider than this issue and includes an audit of work health and safety laws, procedures, inspections, investigations and prosecutions.

“This announcement will allow Mr Lyons to comprehensively report to me, on these various issues, by the allocated date.”

The Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety is due to report to the Government by 30 June 2017.

“After these tragic events last year, concerns were raised about public safety and workplace health and safety matters in Queensland and the effectiveness of current offences and penalties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011,” said Grace.

“We want to ensure our workplace health and safety laws are operating at best practice and the Government is prepared to make the relevant changes to ensure this is the case.”

The Queensland Council of Unions has welcomed the proposal, with the QCU General Secretary Ros McLennan saying it would act as a deterrent for negligent employers who operate unsafe workplaces.

“We have long called for tougher offences to make sure that dodgy bosses and their companies don’t just get a slap on the wrist if their negligent actions have led to a workplace fatality,” said McLennan.

“Last year in Queensland there were 40 workplace fatalities notified to authorities. Just one death is one too many, and this deterrent will make sure that companies don’t cut corners and put profits ahead of people.

“We encourage the government to bring these laws into Parliament as soon as possible. These laws can’t come soon enough because there’s nothing more important than workers coming home safe after a day’s work.”

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