Industrial Manslaughter: It’s real!

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Is industrial manslaughter real and is it going to be prosecuted. The answer is yes, and it’s already been in court.

And…it doesn’t just apply to companies, it can and is currently being applied to an individual.

Queensland’s independent work health and safety prosecutor has commenced the first prosecution for industrial manslaughter against an individual since the offence was enacted in Queensland in 2017.

The business owner was charged with one offence under s.34C of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

It is alleged that the owner negligently caused the death of a worker in July last year. The maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter is 20 years imprisonment.

A second party, a company, has also been charged with an offence under the Act arising from the same incident.

The prosecution comes on the heels of Australia’s first conviction and sentence for industrial manslaughter which was recently handed down in the Brisbane District Court.

The Court issued a $3 million fine and suspended jail sentences to two company directors over an incident in which a worker was crushed by a forklift.

The conviction related to an incident in May 2019 at a business in Brisbane, in which a worker suffered fatal injuries when a forklift was reversed, crushing him between the forklift and a stationary tilt-tray truck.

The investigation into the incident by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) and Queensland Police revealed that the business had no documented safety systems and that the driver of the forklift was unlicensed.

The defendant entered a guilty plea to one offence contrary to s34C of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Having read this, how well prepared are you for the changes relating to industrial manslaughter. The response to this usually depends on four factors:

  • the organisations size;
  • the current risk profile of its operations;
  • leaderships awareness of and commitment to the safety and wellbeing of all within the sphere of operations;
  • then the level of resourcing of an organisation currently applies to workplace safety.

You need to be aware and prepared!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

If you’re a business owner or manager you are aware of the consequences of not having appropriate procedures in place.

My number 1 recommendation is to review your Safety Management System now or better still have it reviewed by a WHS professional with experience in your industry.


The first place to look at is your operational procedures to make sure they actually reflect all the steps in all tasks.

BIG tip: make sure your risk assessments are up to date and your Risk Register matches up to the risk assessments.