• Serious Workplace Bullying is a Jailable Offence

    NOTE: The contents of and any opinions contained in this article may not necessarily reflect the opinions of Capricorn Society Ltd. The information contained in this article is for general information only and should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used or relied on as a substitute for seeking advice from an appropriately qualified professional.


    In a world where technology has befriended our business it’s no wonder the panel industry has embraced software products with such enthusiasm.

    Today, panel shop owners spend more time overseeing their business through a computer screen than walking the floor and talking to staff. From quoting, accounting, production, payroll, parts ordering, advertising, etc. the list goes on with our unquenchable need for data.

    So, when it comes to health and safety, we tend to think the same rules apply. Look for the cheapest tick and flick health and safety software and get the part time admin staff to do it. Simple.

    Reality check! Now don’t blame me for what you’re about to read, I’m just the messenger.   

    The Human Rights Commission is now embedded in health and safety with increases in claims of sexual harassment, bullying, stress, stalking, discrimination etc. Criminal charges are now being laid against business owners for all types of physical and non-physical WHS incidents with devastating effects on the individual, their family and the business.

    Brodie's Law is an amendment to the Victorian Crimes Act 1958 which makes serious bullying an offence punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment. The law is named after Brodie Panlock, a 19-year-old who committed suicide after being bullied at work.

    Every state has either implemented or is debating manslaughter laws.

    In Victoria a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment will apply for natural person offenders (same as for Queensland and ACT) and $16 million fine for corporate offenders of industrial manslaughter.

    In Victoria there is already an offence (s 32) of recklessly endangering persons at workplaces. This attracts a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment or approximately $291,420 fine for individual offenders or almost $3.238m fine for corporate offenders.


    A checklist for employers

    Review OHS management systems - Employers should undertake a comprehensive review of the efficacy of its OHS management systems and the allocation of appropriate responsibility for the performance of those systems.


    Review OHS leadership and culture - An employer needs to be able to show that the poor conduct was not authorised or permitted by its overall culture or organisation.


    Due diligence for directors and officers – To protect themselves from personal liability, senior managers and directors will need be proactive and diligent in ensuring:

    • the organisation has in place appropriate systems to manage health and safety in work
    • an active and inquisitive role is taken in planning and actioning of health and safety initiatives
    • if the manager or director’s role does not directly involve them in implementation of these initiatives, they will make the decisions that allow for the appropriate measures to be taken, and they will take reasonable steps to ensure that these measures are taken
    • they know who has health and safety obligations and know the nature of those obligations, and will ensure those people have the authority and accountability to meet those obligations
    • the organisation has processes in place to collect and report relevant health and safety information to enable them to make proper decisions
    • the organisation has processes in place that operate to enable employees to be consulted about health and safety matters and to provide input to management about hazards and risks, obligations and performance of OHS management, and
    • when they rely on other managers, experts and supervisors to collect, analyse and communicate safety information, they ensure the information is logical and credible and that the person giving the information is suitably qualified.

     

    Mandatory jail time for a business owner charged with industrial manslaughter has got to come as a warning that the authorities have had enough.  It’s not too late to start doing something today.


    Monit is a leading workplace health and safety expert, delivering managed online WHS systems across a variety of automotive industries in Australia.