construction site safety
Two construction workers died in sperate incidents during the same week in May 2020. Image – Canva
  • New laws were introduced in July 2019
  • Penalties include fines of up to $16M for companies and 25 years' jail time
  • 20 workers died in transport-related workplace incidents last year

Following 65 work-related deaths across Victorian workplaces last year, the State Government has reminded employers of tougher penalties for those who fail to comply with occupational health and safety obligations.

New workplace manslaughter laws have been in place since July 2019 which includes significant fines and jail times for employers who are deemed to be responsible for workplace fatalities.

Fines can be as steep as $16 million for companies and individuals can face a maximum jail term of 25 years.

As part of the workplace health and safety reforms, a specialised Fatalities Investigation Team was established to investigate workplace deaths. Reforms also include additional WorkSafe construction inspectors, which has resulted in more inspections being completed than before.

What constitutes a ‘workplace death’ has also been redefined with deaths from work-related transport incidents such as industrial disease, criminal acts and medical incidents now included within the fatality toll.

According to WorkSafe, 20 workers died in transport incidents with a further 13 dying from a disease contracted at their workplace during 2020.

Additionally, WorkSafe reported two construction-related deaths during the same week in May of last year. In both cases, the construction workers fell to the ground and died from fatal head injuries.

70 workplace deaths were recorded in 2019, meaning there was overall a decrease last year – although, of course, Melbourne’s lockdown resulted in restrictions on the number of workers allowed on a site at any time.

Ingrid Stitt, the Minister for Workplace Safety, said these statistics reinforce the need for tough laws to counteract these tragedies.

“One workplace death is one too many, and the loss of 65 workers in 2020 is absolutely devastating.”

“We’re reforming workplace safety by introducing workplace manslaughter, hiring extra WorkSafe inspectors and implementing tougher penalties for those who flout the law.”

“We all have a responsibility to make health and safety our top priority and ensure every worker returns home from work at the end of the day.”

Ingrid Stitt, Minister for Workplace Safety

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