Their voices heard – a national commitment to safer workplaces

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Thursday 20 December 2018

Media Release
  • Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations
  • Minister for Women

The Coalition Government is committed to driving changes that will continue to make Australian workplaces healthier and safer. After all, everyone who goes to work should expect to go home safe to their families each and every day.

In tabling today the Government’s response to a Senate Committee report into the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia, the Government re-doubled its commitment to ensuring all jurisdictions have robust systems in place to address workplace fatalities and to improve support provided to families affected by the loss of a loved one.

Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, said as a first step the Government will drive improvements in the support for families bereaved by a workplace fatality by proposing that Safe Work Australia establish a best practice model for centralised, timely and high quality family liaison and support provided by trained and sensitive professionals.

“I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all the families who participated in the inquiry and who so bravely and eloquently shared their experiences,” Minister O’Dwyer said.

“I have met with some of the families involved and remain deeply moved by their grace, courage, and determination to ensure other Australian families will not endure the pain and trauma that they have suffered.”

“To the families and friends of workers who have died doing their job, I say this: I hear you.”

“I share your determination and remain steadfast in my resolve to ensure lessons learnt from your distressing experiences result in fundamental improvements to WHS in Australia.”

We have worked hard to meet the request, made by the families I met with, for the Government to provide its response to the Committee’s Report before the end of the year.

Evidence to the inquiry also shows that there is significant room for improvement in how state, territory and Commonwealth WHS laws are enforced in practice, both in terms of preventative action and investigation and prosecution following a workplace death.

The Government will take a proactive approach to work with all states and territories and across Commonwealth agencies to address the issues identified by witnesses to the inquiry.

“Proper, robust and defensible investigations will lead to more successful prosecutions with appropriate penalties. That’s why I am writing to state and territory WHS Ministers seeking their consideration of how the existing framework is applied, including where it could be improved through better guidance and other practical measures,” Minister O’Dwyer said.

“A central concern arising from the inquiry is that poor investigations lead to poor outcomes. I am concerned that the Senate Committee recommendation for a new industrial manslaughter offence based on the Queensland model will not address the underlying issues identified by families impacted by workplace fatalities.”

The current offences in the model WHS laws, together with current criminal manslaughter laws, are able to address workplace deaths provided they are applied appropriately. Where there has been a workplace death, all of those responsible can be prosecuted under the existing offences regime and the general criminal manslaughter provisions.

The Government response to the report, They never came home—the framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia, is available on the Department of Jobs and Small Business website.