New Industrial Manslaughter Laws from 1 July 2024


South Australia has new industrial manslaughter laws commencing 1 July 2024.

Under the new regime, individual employers face up to 20 years in prison and corporate employers face up to $18 million in fines if they are found to have caused the death of a worker through a reckless or grossly negligent breach of health and safety duties.

The new laws make industrial manslaughter a criminal offence.

Employers, both individual and corporate, are now on notice that the most serious health and safety breaches carry severe penalties.

These new laws bring South Australia in line with other jurisdictions that have made industrial manslaughter an offence, including the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.


When Do the New Industrial Manslaughter Laws Apply?


Industrial manslaughter is a major indictable offence.

Under the amended Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) (‘WHS Act’), a person commits the offence of industrial manslaughter if:

  • the person has a health and safety duty; and
  • the person engages in conduct that breaches that duty; and
  • the conduct causes the death of an individual to whom that duty is owed; and
  • the person engages in the conduct with gross negligence or is reckless as to the risk to an individual of death or serious injury or illness.

Conduct, for the purpose of this section, causes the death of an individual if it substantially contributes to the death.


Who Do the New Industrial Manslaughter Laws Apply To?


The offence of industrial manslaughter applies to a person conducting a business or undertaking, or an officer of a person conducting a business or undertaking, who holds a duty under the WHS Act.

For clarity, an officer is someone who makes or helps make decisions affecting the whole or a major part of a business or undertaking, and can significantly affect the financial standing of the organisation.

Workers, who are not officers, cannot be charged with the offence.

It is important for employers to implement effective controls to minimise work health and safety incidents in the workplace.

These new laws are a timely reminder to employers to review their current policies and procedures to ensure their employees are adequately protected and to ensure that they meet their legal obligations and duty of care.


Time Limitations


Employers should be aware that the 2-year limitation period for prosecution under the Act does not apply to industrial manslaughter prosecutions.


Alternative Verdicts


If a Court is not satisfied that a person is guilty of industrial manslaughter, but is satisfied that the thresholds are met for a Category 1, Category 2 or Category 3 offence under the WHS Act, it may bring a verdict that the person is guilty of the lesser offence.

Alternative verdicts are only available if an industrial manslaughter prosecution is brought within the 2-year limitation period that applies to the lower category offences.

If an industrial manslaughter prosecution is brought after the expiry of that limitation period, no alternative verdict will be available.


Contact Us


Should you require any assistance with the changes brought about by the new legislation, or for more specific information on any of the material contained in this article, contact Bambrick Legal today. We offer a free, no-obligation 15-min consultation for all enquiries.

Read more about our Employment Law services here.

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