The Guardian 20 April, 2005
Building worker's life worth $55,000,
according to a Queensland Court.
The penalty, arising from the death of Trevor Kelly on the Gold Coast Convention Centre last year, has thrust industrial manslaughter back into the political spotlight. Brisbane-based Mulherin Rigging and Cranes Pty Ltd was fined $55,000 in the Southport Magistrate's Court after pleading guilty to breaching workplace safety laws.
Trevor Kelly had been working without a harness and had had no site induction, when he fell to his death. Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) State Secretary, Andrew Dettmer, said the sentence reflected the "complete inadequacy" of Queensland health and safety laws.
"It's time courts were given the power they need to act as a deterrent", he said. "Queensland courts need more serious options, including a charge of industrial manslaughter against company directors or business owners guilty of negligence that leads to the death of an employee.
"The only way business will take this matter seriously is if Parliament starts to take it seriously."
Queensland Workplace Health and Safety laws work on a system of penalty units. A breach, causing death, carries a maximum fine of $60,000 and the possibility of two years in jail.
Prison terms have rarely, if ever, been handed out but Mr Dettmer says industrial manslaughter laws could rectify that. "Trevor Kelly's family has lost immeasurably more than $60,000, in personal and financial terms", he pointed out.
He pledged the AMWU would raise industrial manslaughter, again, at the next ALP state conference.
Meanwhile, Queensland bosses will no longer be able to snoop on job applicants' workers compensation history following state government law changes.
"Unions have been concerned for some time that employers and employment agencies had required workers to provide workers' compensation histories as part of the pre-employment process", said Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary, Grace Grace.
"The practice was clearly discriminatory against workers who had the misfortune of being injured at work."