Industrial manslaughter laws in WA make drug and alcohol testing even more vital

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Changes to WA’s Work Health and Safety Act 2020 make drug and alcohol testing in businesses even more vital. Credit David Clode https://unsplash.com/photos/a-man-on-top-of-a-roof-fixing-a-solar-panel-h7D3RSePhnc

In March 2022, WA introduced a new offence of industrial manslaughter under the Work Health and Safety Act 2020; an offence that makes drug and alcohol testing in your business even more vital.

The industrial manslaughter offence in WA can apply to any business – or importantly any person conducting a business or their officers – who’s failure to comply with the Act results in a death. The laws can result in large fines for the business and jail terms for the owners and managers of the business.

Drug and alcohol testing in WA now even more important

What’s the link between the new industrial manslaughter laws in WA and drug and alcohol testing?

Imagine you’re a business owner or manager in a WA mining business. Safety is obviously paramount and you have a comprehensive health and safety program, including a drug and alcohol policy.

But there’s a critical issue. Your drug and alcohol management policy is flimsy and you don’t carry out drug and alcohol testing. There’s no way of knowing if your employees are coming to work under the influence and creating unacceptable risks to themselves and their colleagues.

These oversights can lead to severe consequences. If one of your employees is involved in an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and someone dies, there’s the potential of you facing prosecution for industrial manslaughter. And this could see you end up in jail.

This drug and alcohol testing scenario isn’t, of course, limited to the WA mining industry. It could occur in manufacturing, aviation, agriculture, transportation, construction or any other business where safety is vital.

Potential consequences significant

What are the potential consequences if you or your business are charged under WA’s industrial manslaughter laws? They’re significant and include a maximum penalty of $5 million and 20 years imprisonment for a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) or their officer.

While an industrial manslaughter case has yet to be prosecuted in WA, serious safety infringements have seen people jailed in the past, even before the new laws were introduced.

For example, a commercial shed and warehouse fabrication and construction business and the company director were prosecuted after one employee died and another was left with serious injuries are falling around seven metres from a roof. They had been installing the roof sheets when strong winds dislodged sheets, causing the employees to fall.

The company was fined $605,000 and the company director received a sentence of three-and-a-half, which was reduced to two years and two months due to an early pea and mitigating circumstances.

It’s worth noting that further changes were made to the Act when the industrial manslaughter laws were introduced in WA and recently the first four prosecutions under the changes were initiated. While these cases are yet to be decided, the Acting WorkSafe Commissioner has highlighted that the changes to the Act to do carry serious penalties.

“This is illustrated by the potential maximum fine of $3.5 million in three of these cases, but more serious breaches may risk penalties including terms of imprisonment for individuals,” said Acting WorkSafe Commissioner Sally North.

“It’s disappointing that workers continue to suffer serious or permanent injuries due to failure by employers to comply with their obligations under Work Health and Safety laws.

“The potential consequences of failing to ensure a safe and healthy workplace are now more serious than they have ever been, and I encourage everyone with work health and safety duties to be proactive in managing risks.”

And that can include implementing drug and alcohol testing in your WA business and having a robust and detailed drug and alcohol management plan in place.

FEATURED IMAGE CAPTION:

Changes to WA’s Work Health and Safety Act 2020 make drug and alcohol testing in businesses even more vital. Credit David Clode https://unsplash.com/photos/a-man-on-top-of-a-roof-fixing-a-solar-panel-h7D3RSePhnc

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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