All employers in Victoria need to know this. The new laws of workplace manslaughter passed by the Victorian Parliament last year in the response to increasing workplace deaths have come into effect from July 1. Under the new laws if a COVID-19 death is traced back to a workplace where it is proven that the deceased got infected at work, and their employer failed to provide COVID-19 safe workplace, the employer can face prosecution under these new laws.
The employer in such a case faces jailed time of up to 20 years and $16.5 million in fines.
According to Herald Sun, Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy has confirmed employers can be prosecuted for failing in their duty of care when it came to the spread of infection.
She said employers could be charged using the state’s newly introduced industrial manslaughter laws, if it is proven the employer contributed to the death of their worker.
“Our workplace manslaughter laws mean that employers who negligently breach their duties, causing the death of their workers, can be prosecuted and potentially go to jail,” she said.
“Those duties include providing a safe and healthy workplace.”
According to the story, former Premier Jeff Kennett has called for the law to also be applied in circumstances where the government is accountable, including ministers.
“The government have said that these laws apply and Minister Hennessy has indicated these apply to all employers.
“I am just making the point that we should not discriminate and apply them to anyone that has made decision where because of their actions, there is a less than desirable result.
“The act must apply to all people including ministers if they have failed in their duty of care.”
The question is – will it apply everywhere including – schools, hospitals and state and federal government offices?
For instance, are the teachers and all non-teaching staff covered – making the school authorities – in case of public schools – the state government and the organizations running the private and catholic schools fully responsible?
There have been issues over public health advice in a number of workplaces in Geelong and the nearby regions. There are mixed signals people say. For instance – the regional areas – under new restrictions – people cannot have visitors at home but can go and dine out in a restaurant.
Those opposed to wearing masks are also accusing the government of having given mixed signals – as it suited ‘them’. They say the government – when masks were in severe short supply earlier in lockdown 1.0, downplayed the benefits of wearing a mask and are now pushing everyone to think it is the only good tool against community transmission and to ultimately control COVID-19 death numbers.
The government is taking making workplace COVID-19 free very seriously. Employers found not enforcing social distancing and mask wearing in the workplace would face fines of $9,913.
The state government has already deployed WorkSafe and Emergency Victoria teams to carry out on-the-spot-checks on workplaces.
For the worried Premier Daniel Andrews workplaces remained one of the biggest concerns when it came to transmission identifying several sectors of concern including aged care, meat works, distribution and logistics centres and cleaning firms.
He has been so disgruntled with aged care, not shying away from publically saying he would not like his mum to be in one of those under the radar.
17 people have made WorkSafe coronavirus claims against their worksites according to the Herald Sun.
It is not known if any of the COVID-19 death cases in Victoria have been linked to a work setting.
The new laws cover a range of workplace issues from diseases to mental health matters including suicide. WorkSafe Victoria has also been given additional powers to investigate the new offence.
Victoria has had another 627 new COVID-19 cases and 8 more deaths, which included two men in their 50s.