Queensland adopts a firmer approach to workplace safety

The Queensland government wants to create a new offence that criminalises ‘negligence causing death’ in the workplace, but not everyone is getting behind this.
The Queensland government is getting tough about workplace safety, in response to two fatal incidents that shook the construction industry last year.
Queensland Employment Minister Grace Grace recently announced the government will create a new offence that criminalises any negligence that causes death in the workplace.
This follows a recommendation from the Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety, which was set up in the wake of six deaths on work and commercial sites in Queensland.
In one incident, two construction workers were killed after a concrete wall collapsed at the Eagle Farm Racecourse in October 2016. A few weeks later, four people were killed on the Thunder River Rapids at the Dreamworld theme park, after the ride malfunctioned.
“After these tragic events last year, concerns were raised about public safety and workplace health and safety matters in Queensland and the effectiveness of current offences and penalties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011,” Ms Grace said.
“We want to ensure our workplace health and safety laws are operating at best practice and the Government is prepared to make the relevant changes to ensure this is the case.”
The review does more than recommend the establishment of a new offence – the details of which are yet to be ironed out. It also calls for an audit into the underlying work health and safety laws and systems. Now that the government has thrown its support behind the recommendation, reviewers will work together to decide what the next step will be and what the offence will look like.
But not everyone supports the creation of a new penalty.
Corlia Roos, policy director at Master Builders Queensland, said the government failed to consult with the peak industry association and creating a new offence won’t result in less deaths.
“Extra penalties are not a deterrent to non-compliance and will not stop people getting injured or killed,” she said in an interview with Fairfax media.
“The only things that will improve safety in workplaces are better policing of the current laws, improved education, and more practical safety outcomes.”