New Workplace Manslaughter Laws

A new offence of workplace manslaughter has been introduced into Victorian occupational health and safety laws and applies to a workplace death that occurs after 1 July 2020. The offence may also apply even when the death of the person occurs some time after the relevant conduct, for example where an employee developed a chemical exposure-related disease.

If convicted of workplace manslaughter, penalties that can apply are a maximum of 25 years imprisonment for individuals; and a maximum fine of $16.5 million for body corporates. If you are already complying with your OHS duties you will not need to do anything different.

Elements of the offence

The elements of the new workplace manslaughter offence are:

  • they must have owed the victim a specified duty under the OHS Act
  • the breach of the duty caused the death of the victim, and
  • the conduct was negligent

Who can be charged with workplace manslaughter?

Organisations and self-employed persons who hold specified duties under the OHS Act (as outlined below) can be prosecuted for the offence of workplace manslaughter. Organisations include bodies corporate (for example, registered companies), incorporated associations, statutory authorities, trustee of a trust, unincorporated bodies and unincorporated associations, and partnerships.

Officers of body corporates, partnerships, and unincorporated bodies or associations may also be charged with the offence of workplace manslaughter if their organisation holds specified duties under the OHS Act.

Negligent conduct

For the purposes of workplace manslaughter, conduct will be considered ‘negligent’ if it involves a great falling short of the standard of care that a reasonable person would have taken in the circumstances, and a high risk of death, serious injury or serious illness.

The test is based on the criminal standard for negligence in Victoria.

The VFF offers several comprehensive, free-of-charge health and safety services for Victorian farmers that can be accessed by calling the VFF on 1300 882 833.