The Queensland Government will introduce the new offence of “negligence causing death”, following the deaths of two construction workers at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm Racecourse.
Humberto Leite, 55, and Ashley Morris, 34, were killed when sandwiched between two slabs of concrete in a construction pit inside the renovated racecourse last year.
The new law follows an interim recommendation from the Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety.
Employment Minister Grace Grace said the Independent Reviewer, Tim Lyons, had written to her advising of his preliminary view that the offence should be created.
“The Government’s support of this recommendation will mean that Mr Lyons can consult with stakeholders to determine the best practice model for introduction and implementation of the offence, rather than further considering the merits of its introduction,” said Grace.
“Of course, the scope of the review is much wider than this issue and includes an audit of work health and safety laws, procedures, inspections, investigations and prosecutions.
“This announcement will allow Mr Lyons to comprehensively report to me, on these various issues, by the allocated date.”
The Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety is due to report to the Government by 30 June 2017.
“After these tragic events last year, concerns were raised about public safety and workplace health and safety matters in Queensland and the effectiveness of current offences and penalties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011,” said Grace.
“We want to ensure our workplace health and safety laws are operating at best practice and the Government is prepared to make the relevant changes to ensure this is the case.”
The Queensland Council of Unions has welcomed the proposal, with the QCU General Secretary Ros McLennan saying it would act as a deterrent for negligent employers who operate unsafe workplaces.
“We have long called for tougher offences to make sure that dodgy bosses and their companies don’t just get a slap on the wrist if their negligent actions have led to a workplace fatality,” said McLennan.
“Last year in Queensland there were 40 workplace fatalities notified to authorities. Just one death is one too many, and this deterrent will make sure that companies don’t cut corners and put profits ahead of people.
“We encourage the government to bring these laws into Parliament as soon as possible. These laws can’t come soon enough because there’s nothing more important than workers coming home safe after a day’s work.”
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The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) levied a $90,000 fine on a commercial food service provider on Tuesday, for safety lapses leading to the death of an employee who slipped on a production floor on 21 August 2015.
In violation of the Workplace Safety and Health Act, Commonwealth Culinary Creations failed to ensure that its workplace is safe and without health risks to every person within the premises, said the ministry.
MOM’s investigations showed that the company failed to:
- keep floor conditions safe
- provide anti-slip floor mats
- install warning signs
“This is an unfortunate accident which could have been prevented if the company had taken simple precautionary safety measures,” said MOM Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, Mr Chan Yew Kwong. “Alerting workers to safety hazards can greatly reduce accidents and cultivate a safety first mind-set among workers.”
For example, Kwong said workers would have avoided the area had warning signs been present, and those who operate there should also be required to anti-slip shoes. In fact, these were control measures proposed by CCCPL in its risk assessment, which it failed to implement. Safety should never be taken for granted,” the director added.
In a speech last month, Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan identified three “priority areas” to help improve workplace safety and health standards (WSH) for 2017. These are falls prevention, onsite vehicular safety, and prevention of amputation injuries.
Last year, the workplace fatality rate in Singapore remained at 1.9 per 100,000 employed persons while non-fatal injuries increased by 5.4%. Most workplace injuries involved crushing, fractures and dislocations. Amputations were the second most common injury, with 143 workers suffering from complete loss limb.
Singapore is one of two countries that requires Safety professionals to register with the government, or its appointed agency.