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Australia’s first industrial manslaughter conviction has been recorded, with two directors sentenced to imprisonment and the company fined $3 million.
A Brisbane based automobile recycling business has become Australia’s first employer to be convicted of industrial manslaughter. The conviction follows a fatal incident on 17th May 2019, where a worker was crushed between a utility and a reversing forklift.1

An investigation conducted by Queensland Police and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland determined that Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd had ‘no safety systems in place’. In particular, the company did not have a traffic management plan at its worksite, across which several forklifts operated near workers and members of the public. The investigation also revealed that the operator of the forklift was inexperienced and did not hold a high-risk work license to operate the forklift.

Individuals guilty of industrial manslaughter in the state of Queensland face up to 20 years imprisonment, with corporate offenders liable for fines of up to $10 million. The two company directors were charged with a category one offence of reckless conduct and following a guilty plea received a suspended sentence of 10 months imprisonment. The entity, Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd was fined $3 million out of a maximum fine of $10 million. The prison terms were only suspended because of unique mitigating circumstances.

Currently, four Australian states and territories (ACT, QLD, NT and VIC) have enacted industrial manslaughter legislation. In South Australia, imprisonment is also possible where offences result in the loss of life. This tragic incident is a timely reminder that all employers and their officers have an obligation to ensure that they develop safe systems of work that are consistent with the laws, codes of practice and regulations. This includes having a sound, proactive understanding of hazards and related risks and putting in place risk management procedures to effectively manage those risks on a systematic basis.

An effective safety management system is the most reliable way to prevent injury and the loss of life and to avoid hefty penalties and potential imprisonment.
 
Require further information/assistance? If you require further information, advice, or any safety related policies or procedures that combine to form the framework for your safety management system, please contact one of our consultants.

1 R v Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd & Ors [2020] QDC 113 (11 June 2020)
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