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Kill a worker, go to jail; SA introduces industrial manslaughter bill

November 29, 2022

A new law in SA unveiled today could see bosses jailed for up to 20 years, if a worker dies and they are found to have been reckless or grossly negligent (with corporates fined up to $15 million).

"Jail time is so important, because a $15 million fine on a $1 Billion project isn't justice for a worker's grieving family. It's more like a speeding ticket," said Dale Beasley, SA Unions Secretary.

"It's not about beating up on bosses, it's about sending the message that workers' lives aren't a line item on a balance sheet," said Beasley.

The legislation comes after years of campaigning from Unions and ignored by the previous Liberal Government.

"Unions have been fighting for industrial manslaughter legislation for years, it's great to see this government following-through on such a key election commitment," said Beasley.

This legislation comes at a time where the government is reviewing the operationally and culturally dysfunctional SafeWork SA. The outcome of the review into SafeWork SA weighs heavily on the ability to implement industrial manslaughter.

View SA Union's 40 recommendations

SafeWork SA is already unable to fulfil its role in keeping workplaces safe, this legislation expects SafeWork SA to investigate any deaths. For this legislation to work, the regulator needs an overhaul," said Beasley.


Whilst this legislation won't be retrospective, it will also cover instances where a worker contracts a disease through their work, which they later die from. This is going to have major implications on silicosis cases, or where asbestos isn't handled correctly.

"Each year around 600,000 Australian workers are exposed to silica dust at work. Silicosis is a killer; this legislation goes a long way to making businesses act now to prevent this from taking more lives," said Beasley.


This legislation also intends to cover instances where a worker's psychological trauma from bullying & harassment is determined to be the reason they decide to take their own lives (this is currently captured well in the Victorian legislation).

"We know that 30% of workers sustained a physical or mental injury in the previous 12 months and that 1/3 workers were regularly exposed to stress at work. This bill takes psychosocial hazards as seriously as physical hazards," said Beasley.


If a judge finds that the employer's recklessness doesn't meet the high bar for manslaughter, this legislation allows for judges to instead find them guilty of lesser offenses:

  • Reckless conduct (5 Year sentence & Individual fine $600k, corporate fine $3m)
  • Failure to comply with duty (individual fine $150k, corporate fine $300k)