Australia’s toughest mine safety laws have officially gone in effect with the offence of industrial manslaughter now applying when an employer’s or senior officer’s criminal negligence causes the death of a worker in the resources sector.
Penalties include 20 years’ imprisonment for an individual and 100,000 penalty units for a corporation, equivalent to more than $13 million.
The introduction of industrial manslaughter offences into the resource safety Acts strengthens the safety culture by bringing into focus the conduct of employers and senior officers. These changes are consistent with industrial manslaughter offences in Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and will provide consistent treatment of criminal negligence.
“Sadly, eight workers have died on the job in our mines and quarries in the past two years and just in May this year five miners were seriously injured at an underground coal mine,” Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said. “In the 21st century this is unacceptable.”
“I sincerely hope the new industrial manslaughter laws never have to be used and that instead everyone takes full responsibility for their obligations on site to protect the safety and health of our workers.
“Health and safety responsibility resides with everyone, from executives in head office to workers on site,” he concluded.
A new independent statutory body – Resources Safety and Health Queensland – also launched on 1 July. It has responsibility for regulating safety and health across the state’s mines, quarries, petroleum and gas sites, and the explosives supply chain. The regulator will report directly to the minister.
The changes complement a suite of sweeping mine safety and health reforms under the Palaszczuk Government, the most substantial in 20 years. They include:
• Better detection and prevention of black lung, and other mine dust lung diseases, and an improved safety net for affected workers.
• Increased maximum penalties for offences to $4 million and powers for the regulator to issue fines without going to court.
• Statewide safety reset sessions for mine and quarry workers to refocus on health and safety.
• $35 million to deliver reforms to improve the safety and health of our mine workers
• Powers to suspend or cancel statutory certificates of competency.
• A commitment to tighter controls on mine dust levels
• Extra mines inspectors.