February 4, 2019

Work Health & Safety in Australia: Year in Review 2018

We live in remarkable times. 2018 was a busy year for health, safety and environmental regulatory and case law developments in Australia. In NSW, we saw the first successfully completed category one prosecution under the model WHS Laws, and Western Australia and Queensland vying for position to be the jurisdiction with the highest penalties in the country outside of the $10 million penalties available for Queensland's industrial manslaughter offence. We saw cases withdrawn and the first prosecutions completed arising from the Eagle Farm Racecourse double fatality. We saw the first person go to gaol for an offence under the NSW Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 as well as the first person to go to gaol for a health and safety offence in a reckless conduct case under the VIC Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. We also saw the high water mark of $10 million of initiatives agreed in an enforceable undertaking in the ACT.

Multiple overlapping reviews of health and safety statutory frameworks were also held with significant public consultation processes.  Marie Boland spent 2018 consulting with the country ahead of delivering a Model WHS Laws Review to Safe Work Australia at the end of 2018 (publically released in February 2019).  Tim Lyons also conducted a review of the NT's WHS Laws.  Regulators have come under scrutiny in a Federal Senate Committee Inquiry, the Dreamworld coronial inquest as well as an Independent Commissioner against Corruption South Australia evaluation of the practices, policies and procedures of the regulatory arm of SafeWork SA.

In the push for industrial manslaughter, the debate on the insurability of health and safety penalties that followed the 2013 decision of Hillman v Ferro Con had turned to a low simmer.  That debate is now back on the boil courtesy of the October 2018 Federal Senate Education and Employment References Committee Inquiry Report, They Never Came Home – The Framework Surrounding The Prevention, Investigation And Prosecution of Industrial Deaths In Australia.  There is now the very real potential for Australia to expressly prohibit the offering and taking out of such insurance following the completion of Boland's Model WHS Laws Review. 

As this publication is now in its second year, we are able to bring you some year on year comparative analysis. 

We hope you find our annual analysis of assistance as you and your businesses grapple with the seemingly never-ending shifting of the goal posts in these regulatory frameworks.

To view the full report please click the green button below.