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The Queensland safety regulator has again demonstrated its commitment to ensuring the safety of workers in its latest industrial manslaughter proceedings. The regulator, under the Electronic Safety Act 2002, has commenced proceedings in relation to an incident occurring in far north Queensland in July 2019, where an employee of MSF Sugar Pty Ltd was fatally electrocuted when a crane came into contact, or proximity to overhead powerlines. The regulator has alleged MSF violated the state’s industrial manslaughter laws, which were introduced in 2017, where their conduct resembled elements of criminal negligence. Another charge has been issued for exposing other workers to the risk of serious injury or death for the same incident. The charges are yet to be commenced against any specific director or officer, but if found liable, an individual risks facing a 20-year prison term, or for a corporation, a $20 million penalty. These proceedings follow a successful effort by the regulator in securing a conviction against Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd in June 2020, where a 10-month suspended sentence for each director and a $3 million fine was issued to the company following a violation of Queensland’s industrial manslaughter laws.

These recent proceedings signify Queensland’s commitment to ensuring company directors take responsibility for safeguarding employee safety, and instilling a culture of safety within their workplaces, otherwise harsh penalties await them. Additionally, as of June 2021, similar laws have been introduced in Victoria, the ACT, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, which should serve as a warning to companies across Australia to brush up on their WHS policies.

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