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Onya, Australia – time for New Zealand to do more to protect workers

Another Australian jurisdiction has just made moves to make industrial manslaughter a criminal offense. And it’s time New Zealand follows suit.

South Australia has recently introduced a new Industrial Manslaughter Bill to hold people accountable for serious health & safety breaches that result in death. The “Work Health and Safety (Industrial Manslaughter) Amendment Bill 2023” will include penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for individuals, and fines of up to $18 million for companies.

“This legislation sends a clear message to any dodgy operators that are reckless or grossly negligent with their workers’ health and safety that they will be held to account.

Kyam Maher, Attorney General for South Australia

Industrial manslaughter, also known as corporate manslaughter, is a criminal offence which holds businesses and/or the business’ high-level leadership accountable for serious breaches of their health and safety duties leading to the death of a person.

This law change will bring South Australia in line with five other Australian jurisdictions that have codified industrial manslaughter laws. This would leave only New South Wales and Tasmania without industrial manslaughter on the books, although New South Wales has previously expressed an interest in introducing the law, and calls are ongoing for Tasmania to introduce the law.  

New Zealand often compares itself with Australia and the United Kingdom, as all three operate on a risk management framework for their health and safety systems. New Zealand’s Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 is modelled on the Australian legislation, which itself is based on the UK’s system. 

The UK has had corporate manslaughter on the books since 2007. Australia is moving towards federal coverage of industrial manslaughter laws. This leaves New Zealand as the outlier for not having specific laws targeting the worst and most egregious breaches of our health and safety laws.

It’s also worth noting that New Zealand performs worse in relation to occupational injuries and fatalities at work than our two closest counterparts.

CountryNon-fatal occupational injuries per 100,000 workers Occupational fatalities per 100,000 workers
New Zealand12002.3
United Kingdom3350.8
(International Labour Organisation)

This translates to a Kiwi worker being killed on the job every week on average.

Our workers deserve better. Together, we are calling for Not One More – corporate manslaughter legislation to prevent any more unnecessary and preventable workplace deaths.

Every person who works in New Zealand deserves to have their health and safety prioritised. And every company that breaches these rights must be held accountable. New Zealand must adopt international best practice, and ensure every worker can return home safe and healthy to their loved ones.  

Join us by signing our petition.

Other links:

Why NZ needs a corporate manslaughter law 

What does a corporate manslaughter look like?