QLD: first prosecution for industrial manslaughter against an individual

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 4 September, 2020 - 12:15
Industry news
National News

Queensland’s independent work health and safety prosecutor, Aaron Guilfoyle, has commenced the first prosecution for industrial manslaughter against an individual since the offence was enacted in Queensland in 2017.

Guilfoyle has charged Jeffrey Owen – who owns a Gympie business which sells and services electric motors – with one offence under s.34C of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

It is alleged that Owens negligently caused the death of a worker in July last year at his business premises.

The maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter is 20 years imprisonment.

A second party, a company, has also been charged with an offence under the Act arising from the same incident.

The charges against Mr Owen will be mentioned in the Gympie Magistrates Court on Thursday 1 October 2020.

The prosecution comes on the heels of Australia’s first conviction and sentence for industrial manslaughter which was recently handed down in the Brisbane District Court.

The Court issued a $3 million fine and suspended jail sentences to two company directors over an incident in which a worker was crushed by a forklift.

The conviction related to an incident in May 2019 at a wrecking yard in Rocklea, Brisbane, in which a worker suffered fatal injuries when a forklift was reversed, crushing him between the forklift and a stationary tilt-tray truck.

The investigation into the incident by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) and Queensland Police revealed that the business had no documented safety systems and that the driver of the forklift was unlicensed.

The defendant, Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd, had on 3 April 2020 entered a guilty plea to one offence contrary to s34C of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.