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The Property Council has in the past made comment regarding the recent legislative changes which introduced a new offence relating to workplace deaths. The Property Council is not opposed to reasonable amendments to enhance workplace safety. We understand the importance for the law to reflect community expectations that employers who disregard the health and safety of their employees either through direct actions or the failure to act can be made accountable.
However, we remain unconvinced that the recent changes to the legislation will result in fewer workplace fatalities or improved safety for employees. We are concerned that it will lead to employers being prosecuted for events beyond their control and without the same degree of legal protection provided to defendants accused of serious criminal offences.
If an employer is convicted of causing an employee’s death, due to demonstrable recklessness, the legislation allows WorkCover to prosecute employers and recommend gaol sentences and fines.
The Property Council recommends that these provisions be carefully monitored and regularly reviewed.
The Property Council, whilst not completely supportive of this legislation as currently enacted, would strongly recommend against any further extension of these laws which may unduly burden a building owner, manager or company director for liability arising from harm or death of employees where it is not clearly demonstrable that the employer has acted recklessly.
Specifically, we are opposed to a narrowing of the defence of reasonable excuse or any increased liability for corporations or company directors beyond the personally reckless definition currently in place.