Queensland has passed an Amendment Bill that extends the offence of industrial manslaughter to the state’s resource sector, which includes tougher financial penalties and jail time of up to 20 years for mining executives.
The Mineral and Energy Resources and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 adds industrial manslaughter provisions to the State Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, Explosives Act 1999, Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 and Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004.
Under the Bill, employers or senior officers who cause the death of a worker through their conduct, and are “negligent about causing the death”, will face maximum penalties of: 20 years’ jail for individuals; and 100,000 penalty units (currently equating to more than $13.3 million) for bodies corporate.
This financial penalty is higher than the maximum industrial manslaughter fine of $10 million for bodies corporate under Queensland’s WHS laws for general industry.
Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said establishing industrial manslaughter as an offence in mines and quarries would ensure that senior company officers “do all they can to create a safe mine site.”
“This offence sends the clear message to employers and senior officers that the safety and health of their workers is paramount.”
“In the past two years we’ve had eight workers die, and a gas explosion in an underground coal mine has put five miners in hospital. It’s not acceptable. Safety on a mine site is everybody’s responsibility.”
“But a safety culture needs to be modelled right from the top and creating the offence of industrial manslaughter is to ensure senior company officers do all they can to create a safe mine site.”
The new sanctions bring the resources sector and its workers in line with every other workplace across Queensland – but with higher financial penalties.
The new laws also require people in critical statutory safety roles in coal mines to be mine operator employees – not contract workers.
“This provides these critical officers with confidence that they can raise and report safety issues without fear of reprisal or impact on their employment,” Dr Lynham told Parliament.
The new laws form part of a suite of sweeping mine safety and health reforms under the Palaszczuk Government. They include:
- increased maximum penalties for offences to $4 million and powers for the regulator to issue fines without going to court
- statewide safety reset sessions for mine and quarry workers to refocus on health and safety
- better detection and prevention of black lung, and an improved safety net for affected workers
- $2.2 million for a mobile screening service to support the early detection and prevention of mine dust lung diseases
- $35 million to deliver reforms to improve the safety and health of mine workers
- a commitment to tighter controls on mine dust levels
- establishment of an independent resources health and safety authority from 1 July