Monday, 18 March 2024

Workplace Safety Update – Industrial Manslaughter

The first conviction under Victoria’s workplace manslaughter laws in February 2024, together with a workplace fatality at a Ballarat mine as recently as last week once again places industrial manslaughter laws in the spotlight.

These latest developments follow the recent introduction of criminal offences of industrial manslaughter by the Commonwealth and South Australia and the likelihood that New South Wales will soon also introduce legislation in this respect.  This means it is timely to consider the various industrial manslaughter offences across Australia.

What is Industrial Manslaughter?

Whilst the specific definition of industrial manslaughter varies depending on the jurisdiction, the offence of industrial manslaughter concerns reckless or negligent conduct (or inaction) by an employer or business which results in the death of a worker or other person to whom a duty of care is owed.

Overview of industrial manslaughter offences across Australia

The law relating to industrial manslaughter (including applicable penalties) differs between Australian states and territories.


*As part of the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023 (Closing Loopholes legislation), a criminal offence of industrial manslaughter at the federal level was introduced in late 2023.

Recent Industrial Manslaughter Convictions

Queensland was the first Australian jurisdiction to impose a conviction and fine for industrial manslaughter in 2020 and again in 2022.

In February 2024, the first conviction and fine was ordered under Victorian workplace manslaughter laws when a company was fined $1.3million in relation to the death of a worker crushed by a load falling from a forklift.

In that case, the Victorian Supreme Court also convicted the company’s sole director, placing him on a Community Corrections Order to complete 200 hours of unpaid community work.  Additionally, both the company and its director were ordered to pay $120,000 in compensation to the worker’s family for pain and suffering.

What Next?

Whilst the industrial manslaughter offences recently introduced by the Commonwealth as part of the Closing Loopholes legislation will only apply to the Commonwealth public sector, employers should be aware that industrial manslaughter laws differ across Australia and that apart from Tasmania, industrial manslaughter will soon be a criminal offence in every Australian jurisdiction.

For businesses who operate nationally, it is important to be aware that liability for industrial manslaughter will differ depending on the state or territory in which they are based.

If you would like specific information about how the various industrial manslaughter offences apply to your business, please contact the HR Legal team for advice.


This article was produced by HR Legal. It is intended to provide general information only in summary format on legal issues. It does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on as such.

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