The Victorian government announced this year a Workplace Manslaughter Implementation Taskforce to help develop tough new laws.
Led by Natalie Hutchins, Parliamentary Secretary for Workplace Safety, the taskforce included members and representatives from business, unions, and industry. It was supported by a Families' Reference Group, made up of a number of families who had been affected by a workplace fatality.
The Victorian government has introduced manslaughter laws that will charge negligent employers up to 20 years in jail and $16.5 million in fines over the suicide deaths of their workers.
This law covers deaths caused by mental injuries, including trauma from bullying or other forms of abuse, endured on the job, as well as accidents and illnesses caused by unsafe workplaces.
This legislation applies to employers whose disregard for safety (dangerous workplaces or failing to provide suitable mental support) results in a death of a worker.
The legislation was criticised by industry groups, including the Victorian Chamber of Commerce, Master Builders Association and the Victorian Farmers Federation, who said the laws would have a discriminatory effect on smaller businesses.
Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the burden of proof for employers to be charged under the new laws would be high, however, they must take their OHS responsibilities seriously.
WorkSafe Victoria says it will investigate new offences using its powers under the OHS Act to ensure offenders of workplace deaths are prosecuted appropriately.
There have been about 20 fatalities in Victorian workplaces this year.
In NSW, there have been a number of fatalities in the past months alone.
Are manslaughter laws with long jail terms and heavy fines for offenders the way to go?