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New laws will make employers more accountable for workers’ safety

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Lawyers representing Queensland workers have welcomed the Palaszczuk Government’s introduction of industrial manslaughter legislation.

Slater and Gordon Senior Lawyer Jason Monro said the new laws would ensure employers were more accountable for the safety of their workers.

The Government’s Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment 2017 will mean tougher penalties and potential criminal action – including up to 20 years in prison – against employers who provide unsafe workplaces that lead to the death of staff.

Kingaroy widow Kerry Cameron, whose husband Michael was crushed by an electricity transmission tower at work in March 2012, said she hoped the laws would stop others from suffering through the pain and anguish that her family has endured.

Mrs Cameron said the legislation would hopefully prevent negligent employers from putting their staff in potentially life-threatening situations.

On the day of the accident Michael Cameron was crushed by a high voltage electricity transmission tower that fell from a crane that was incorrectly fitted with a lock-out bar, which prevents activation of the free-fall mode.

“Nothing will ever compensate me for the loss of my husband’s life, nor will it ever bring him back,” Mrs Cameron said.

“But I hope that the threat of a criminal offence and a hefty fine will prompt employers to put the safety of their workers first.”

Mr Monro said last year alone, 178 Australians were killed at work.

“We have seen far too many instances of negligent practices across Queensland that have resulted in a death in the workplace,” Mr Monro said.

“Until now what usually follows for these employers is a slap on the wrist and a fine, which is merely a drop in the ocean for large corporations," ​Mr Monro said.

“These new proposed laws will see the duty holder face a maximum sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment under the Criminal Code.

“The harsher penalties should serve as a warning to employers who choose to cut corners on workplace safety that you cannot hide behind corporate structures to avoid responsibility.”    

The legislation was prompted off the back of 58 recommendations made by a Best Practice Review of Workplace and Health and Safety Queensland, initiated after the horrific Dreamworld tragedy, which took place in October 2016.