3 min read

Navigating Industrial Manslaughter laws

Featured Image

In July 2023, The Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act was amended to introduce a jurisdictional note and model penalties for industrial manslaughter. The maximum penalty now is $18 million for corporate bodies and 20 years jail for individuals. Almost all states now recognise industrial manslaughter as an offence. The amendments made to Australia's industrial manslaughter laws represent a critical paradigm shift in workplace safety regulation, placing a heavier emphasis on accountability and preventing fatal incidents. 

Let's delve into the industrial manslaughter laws and how they can be effectively navigated to ensure a safer work environment.

Current statistics

In 2023, 173 workers were killed at work in Australia, with vehicle incidents (75 workers; 43%) and being hit by moving objects (19 workers; 10%) accounted for more than half (53%) of all worker fatalities in 2023. As of February 10th this year, already 10 workers have devastatingly lost their lives while at work. 

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another human being, and each Australian State defines it slightly differently. Industrial manslaughter refers to the offence where a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has recklessly or negligently failed to ensure the safety of workers or others impacted by their business or undertaking, leading to a death (Mondaq, 2024). 

Industrial manslaughter laws vary across Australian states and territories, with each jurisdiction having its nuances and penalties, so it is essential to familiarise yourself with the specific legislation applicable to your location and industry. For instance, in Queensland, the maximum penalty for an individual found guilty of industrial manslaughter is 20 years' imprisonment, while corporations can face fines of up to $10 million. Knowing the legal framework empowers workplace safety professionals and business owners to proactively mitigate risks and ensure compliance.


See the current legislation per state here.

While the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws may seem daunting, it's important to view them as an opportunity rather than a burden. By embracing these laws, businesses can not only save lives but also enhance their reputation, attract top talent, and, ultimately, thrive in an environment where safety is paramount.


Risk Assessment and Mitigation 

Prevention is critical to avoiding industrial manslaughter charges. Conducting thorough risk assessments tailored to the unique hazards present in your workplace is paramount. Engage employees at all levels to identify potential risks and develop comprehensive mitigation strategies. Regularly review and update safety protocols to adapt to changing circumstances or emerging risks. Prioritise investments in safety infrastructure, equipment, and training to create a robust safety culture that permeates throughout the organisation.


Training and Education

Empowering employees with the knowledge and skills to identify hazards and respond appropriately is fundamental to preventing workplace accidents. Implement comprehensive training programs that cover safety procedures, emergency protocols, and hazard recognition. Regularly reinforce safety messages through toolbox talks, workshops, and refresher courses. Encourage open communication channels where employees can report safety concerns without fear of retribution. By fostering a culture of safety, businesses can proactively address potential risks and prevent accidents before they occur.


compliance and documentation 

Maintaining meticulous records of safety procedures, training activities, and incident reports is essential for demonstrating compliance with industrial manslaughter laws. Ensure that all safety documentation is up-to-date, easily accessible, and accurately reflects the organisation's commitment to workplace safety. Conduct regular audits to assess compliance levels and identify areas for improvement. Engage with regulatory bodies and industry associations to stay informed about any changes or updates to legislation that may impact your organisation.


crisis management and response

Despite best efforts to prevent accidents, crises may still arise. Establish clear crisis management protocols that outline roles, responsibilities, and communication channels in the event of a workplace incident. Provide employees with guidance on how to respond to emergencies and support mechanisms for affected individuals and their families. Collaborate with emergency services and relevant authorities to ensure a coordinated response to critical incidents. Conduct thorough post-incident investigations to identify root causes and implement corrective actions to prevent recurrence.


Industrial manslaughter laws in Australia underscore the importance of prioritising workplace safety and holding accountable those responsible for negligence. For workplace health and safety professionals and business owners, proactive risk management, robust training initiatives, and diligent compliance efforts are essential for creating a safe and secure work environment.