Failed prosecution requires strengthening of industrial manslaughter laws

The shock decision today by the ACT public prosecutor to drop the industrial manslaughter case against Schwing Australia for the death of Ben Catanzariti highlights serious limitations with the industrial manslaughter laws.

The industrial manslaughter laws were introduced in the ACT in 2003 to ensure that workplaces in Canberra are as safe as possible. It established an offense for an employer whose criminal negligence or recklessness caused the death of a worker.

The law was supposed to replace antiquated laws that allowed directors of companies to avoid criminal liability if a worker was killed at work.

The failure of the Catanzariti case, and the slap-on-the-wrist fine for Canberra Contractors Pty highlights the need for the reform, better resourced investigations of industrial accidents resulting in a death, and strengthening of the industrial manslaughter laws.

The following quotes are attributable to Alex White, Secretary of UnionsACT:

“The way that these two industrial manslaughter laws have played out for the family and friends of the killed workers is dreadful.

“The prosecutions have dragged on, and now, at the last minute, have been abandoned.

“The only people who pay a price when a worker is killed at work appears to be the family.

“The ACT Government should review the effectiveness of the industrial manslaughter laws and the resources available to regulators to fully investigate serious workplace accidents and deaths. The community rightly expects that justice be served when a worker loses their life.