Legislators across Australia push to introduce industrial manslaughter

In what has been an eventful month in State and Territory parliaments, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have each taken further steps to establish a criminal offence for industrial manslaughter und5 Decemer their respective work health and safety laws (WHS laws).

The amendments follow the independent review of Australia’s WHS laws by Safe Work Australia earlier this year, which resulted in a number of recommendations including that industrial manslaughter be a legislated offence in each jurisdiction (see our update earlier this year).

The current state of the WHS laws across Australia regarding industrial manslaughter is as follows:


Last Tuesday, Victoria passed the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019 (Vic), which will introduce the broadest and most severe industrial manslaughter offence in Australia (with fines of up to $16.5 million for companies and imprisonment of up to 20 years for individuals). Following commencement, “employers” in Victoria may be charged with the offence of industrial manslaughter as a result of the death of an “other person” to whom they owe a duty of care. (Note: the scope of the offence in Victoria is broader than Queensland as the offence in Queensland is limited to circumstances where there is a death of a “worker”).

The new laws will commence on a day to be proclaimed or 1 July 2020 at the latest.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory passed the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Amendment Bill 2019 (NT) last Wednesday which will introduce industrial manslaughter as a criminal offence, with fines of up to $10 million for companies and life imprisonment (no less than 20 years) for individuals. Like Victoria, the offence of industrial manslaughter extends to circumstances where there is a death of any “individual” to whom a person conducting a business or undertaking owes a duty of care, rather than just workers.

The new laws will commence on a date to be proclaimed.

Western Australia

Last Wednesday, the Western Australian government introduced into parliament the Work Health and Safety Bill 2019 (WA) which included an offence for industrial manslaughter. If passed, the offence will carry fines of up to $10 million for companies and up to 20 years’ imprisonment for individuals.

New South Wales

Whilst the NSW Government remains firm in its stance that it will not be introducing the offence of industrial manslaughter, the Work Health and Safety Amendment (Review) Bill 2019 (NSW) (which was introduced into parliament on 12 November 2019) proposed to include a note in NSW’s WHS laws which expressly clarifies that, in certain circumstances, workplace deaths may be prosecuted as manslaughter under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Other States

Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory currently have industrial manslaughter offences in place (for Queensland, see our previous update).

Last week, in the wake of another tragic workplace fatality, Queensland Minister Lynham announced that laws will be introduced next year extending the offence of industrial manslaughter to mine and quarry workplaces.

There are no current or planned industrial manslaughter laws in South Australia and Tasmania.


As the WHS laws across Australia differ between each jurisdiction, particularly in relation to the potential offences, we recommend that all companies, officers and employees carefully review and understand their duties according to the applicable WHS law.

If you require further advice on your work health and safety duties, please do not hesitate to contact CDI Lawyers.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader’s specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed. 

Key contacts:

Jay Hatten – Senior Associate
Christopher Rowden – Principal


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