The jail terms for health and safety breaches have started

Are you willing to go to jail for not ensuring health and safety in your workplace?

The recent changes to WHS legislation have seen the enforcement powers of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland increase to include the offence of industrial manslaughter with a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail for persons conducting a business or undertaking and up to $10 million in fines for the involved company.

(FYI, the Northern Territory has proposed similar consequences but with LIFE imprisonment for officers of companies (owners, directors etc.) plus $10m in fines. Other states have similar penalty systems in place.)

What is a breach? This is where the WHS law is not upheld, exposing people to risk of death or serious injury. Some examples are exposure to excessive noise, uncontrolled working at height, unlicensed operation of a forklift and unguarded machinery to name a few.

The highest penalty in Queensland is Industrial Manslaughter where a PCBU negligently causes the death of a worker, which carries a maximum jail term of 20 years and fines for the company of up to $10million.

The next penalty is Category 1 where a duty holder recklessly endangers a person to the risk of death or serious injury. Penalties include $3m fine for the company, $600,000 for the PCBU / 5 years in jail. In addition, individual workers can also be fined up to $300,000 / 5 years in jail.

Category 2 penalty is issued when there is a failure to comply with a duty exposing people to risk of death or serious injury. Company fines can be as high as $1.5m, PCBU $300,000 and individual workers up to $150,000.

Category 3 penalty is issued when there is a failure to comply with a duty. Company fines can be as high as $500,000, PCBU $100,000 and individual workers up to $50,000.

There are also infringement notices for 240 different breaches of legislation that can be issued by inspectors on the spot to the company, PCBU and/or individuals. There is a priority list of infringements that Inspectors are focused on including not having a Hazardous Chemical Register or not having a WHS Management Plan accessible on a construction project. Companies can be issued with on the spot fines of between $720 – $3,600. Individuals can also be issued with on the spot fines between $144 – $720.

The big questions for YOU as a business owner are:

  • What is the worst possible scenario for you for safety breaches?
  • Are you comfortable with accepting that risk in light of your current safety standards and systems?

If you are not confident that your current safety systems will keep you out of jail, it’s time to give Michelle in our Safety & Compliance Team a call. Today! 0401 014 619


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