A Victorian garlic bread manufacturer has been charged with industrial manslaughter following the death of a worker who was performing a task that was not directly related to the businesses core operations.  Facing an $18 million fine, this businesses case is a clarion call to all business operators to review their safety systems now, and to be especially vigilant for when circumstances and operations change onsite.

In only the second test of the new industrial manslaughter provisions, this case hinges on the supervision, direction and safe system of work that the business was required to provide, and the contention that the lack of these things is what lead to the death of the worker.

The worker was engaged by the garlic bread manufacturer to perform construction work on the Reservoir warehouse.  While removing suspended ceiling panels the worker fell four metres onto a concrete floor, sustaining fatal injuries.

It is alleged that the business, which had safe systems of work in place for its core manufacturing operations, breached its obligations to the worker under the safety legislation because it did not provide for, consider or communicate around the risks and hazards for the work this particular worker was doing, given that construction was distinct from the known core manufacturing operations.

Learnings for businesses

“The industrial manslaughter provisions are now almost universal and are a clear sign from regulators that officers of businesses are personally responsible for the safe operation of their businesses and for the safety of the workers (and public) and that in the event of the actions (or inactions) of the business resulting in the death of a person, the law will respond most harshly” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

“This higher penalty does not change the responsibility of the business.  All businesses have the responsibility to keep workers and the public safe.  It is however a clear call from the regulators that negligence will not be tolerated.  ‘I didn’t know I had to do that’ or ‘I thought everyone did it this way’ is simply not good enough.  In all of the different provisions the common theme is that the business must be active in understanding and managing risks and must ensure that they are keeping up with not only the best practice options for controls, but also with implementing and communicating controls to employees” continued Elisha.

“Safety cannot ever be set and forget.  Peoples lives are at stake, and the industrial manslaughter provisions have been brought in to drive that point home to all businesses and their officers, to further encourage safety outcomes”  concluded Elisha.

More information

For more information on industrial manslaughter provisions across the country see: https://acapmag.com.au/2023/01/industrial-manslaughter-roundup/

Here to Help

Safety Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business.

They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation. Members can do this by emailing employment@acapma.com.au.

ACAPMA Membership is affordable at only $810 per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts.  Click here to learn more about ACAPMA Membership.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)