Make company directors personally liable for workplace deaths

May 1, 2015

April 28 is International Workers’ Memorial Day, an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. It is an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and ill health and to promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in workplace safety. The slogan for the day is Remember the dead — Fight for the living.

The ACTU has called for company directors to be made personally liable for Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) fines resulting from workplace deaths, even if they restructure their business to avoid payment.

The ACTU released this statement on April 27.

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With International Workers’ Memorial Day taking place on April 28 to commemorate people killed at work, the ACTU calls on the Abbott Government to adopt stronger laws to protect the lives of millions Australians at work.

The ACTU calls on the government to strengthen national OHS laws and make directors personally liable for fines and/or jail for up to 20 years to ensure companies cannot restructure to avoid paying fines as a result of negligent conduct.

Forty-six Australian workers have died at work this year, but there is no provision in OHS laws to for directors to be held personally accountable if those deaths are a result of company negligence.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said: “Strengthening OHS laws to make negligent companies and individual directors liable sends a clear message to employers that they must ensure people are safe at work.

“Forty-six Australians have died at work in the past year because their employer didn’t take their safety at work seriously enough — we need to change that.

“Current laws need to be strengthened so that companies and company directors are liable for our safety at work.’’

In Australia, the average fine for a workplace fatality is around $100,000, which would equate to a fraction of the profit of large businesses making billions of dollars a year.

These laws would help strengthen workplace safety.

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