Mark McGowan says industrial manslaughter laws are worthwhile. Photo: Attila Csaszar

WA may get industrial manslaughter laws

Friday, 31 August, 2018 - 12:23
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Industrial manslaughter laws may be introduced in Western Australia, Premier Mark McGowan says.

A federal parliamentary inquiry into industrial deaths on Thursday heard from the CFMEU, which has for many years pushed to make industrial manslaughter a specific criminal offence, and grieving families who said current penalties were not enough.

"I think industrial manslaughter laws are worthwhile," Mr McGowan told reporters.

"We need to make sure we consult the community, the union movement, business and the like to look at what sort of model we could bring in."

WA's workplace safety laws have long been considered outdated.

Amendments to the state's Occupational Health and Safety Act, substantially increasing fines and bringing the state into line with the national model Work Health and Safety Act, have just passed through parliament.

They are the first penalty increases for workplace safety breaches in 14 years.

Next year, the government is expected to introduce a Work Health and Safety Bill, consistent with the national model, which may feature an industrial manslaughter offence.

"Too many people are being injured in the workforce so we're constantly on the lookout for new things we can do to improve the situation," Mr McGowan said.

"We want to make sure people are protected in the workplace, we want to make sure that if there's gross negligence and people are killed that the people responsible are held accountable."

Yesterday, the CFMEU told a federal parliamentary inquiry that industrial manslaughter laws should be introduced in WA to prevent further workplace deaths.

The union has long pushed to make industrial manslaughter a specific criminal offence under workplace health and safety legislation, saying financial penalties on their own are not an effective deterrent.

The union addressed a public hearing in Fremantle on Thursday for a Senate inquiry into industrial deaths in Australia, and submitted the offence should encompass circumstances where any person is killed in a work-related incident.

This would protect members of the public, such as the three pedestrians who were killed when a wall on the edge of a Grocon site collapsed in Melbourne in 2014, the union said.

It would also ensure justice in industries such as construction where multiple contractors and sub-contractors work on a site.

The inquiry is also hearing from grieving families including Mark and Janice Murrie, whose 22-year-old son Luke was killed at his Perth workplace in 2007 when strapping on packs of tower crane parts he was lifting broke and he was struck to the temple.

"As you can image, our world spiralled unbelievably and was broken and to this day is still broken," the Murries said in their submission.

Luke's employers were fined, but his parents believe the penalties were "grossly inadequate".

"If this is not addressed, many more family members will never make it safely home because there is no true deterrent, and nothing will change, and our son would have died for nothing," they said.

Ashlea Cunico told the inquiry about the loss of her father, Robert, who died in April working for Civmec Construction and Engineering at the Woodman Point waste water treatment plant in Perth.

"Whilst my family and I went about our lives as normal, my dad was dying in the arms of a work colleague 10 metres up in the air," Ms Cunico wrote.

"There are no words to express the pain and suffering my family has endured since that day, not limited to emotional distress but also financial suffering."

She said laws surrounding workplace fatalities were outdated and unacceptable, especially in WA.

"There should be no difference between states and territories," Ms Cunico said.

"There should be zero tolerance for negligent behaviours on our worksites for individuals and corporations alike.

"This cannot be achieved through self-regulation and must be made law."

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