Tough Penalties for Workplace Deaths

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

In 2018, the Western Australian government introduced new (and tougher) maximum penalties for work health and safety offences under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984. Under the Act, the maximum penalties for first time offences of the most serious breaches of an employer’s work health and safety duties are:

  •          $2.7 million for corporations; and
  •          $550,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment for individuals.

The changes in 2018 saw the maximum penalty for a corporation’s first time offence rise from $500,000 to $2.7 million.

Worksafe has recently started prosecuting its first case since these tougher penalties for workplace deaths were introduced. In this case, a Perth plumber drowned when a trench he was working in filled with water and mud. The two companies involved face fines of $2.7 million and $2 million respectively.

The penalties introduced by the WA government in 2018 are similar to the penalties under the federal work health and safety legislation, which is the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Under the federal Act, the most serious breaches attract penalties of up to $3 million for companies and $600,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment for individuals.

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