An ambulance leaves the scene of a construction site accident in Southbank. Picture: AAP
An ambulance leaves the scene of a construction site accident in Southbank. Picture: AAP

Bosses could be jailed for workplace manslaughter

NEW laws to put negligent employers who are accountable for a death in the workplace behind bars for up to 20 years, will be introduced into the Victorian parliament today.

Up to 30 Victorians die on worksites in Victoria every year and Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said employers will now be held accountable for workplace tragedies.

"The new laws I will be introducing today makes workplace manslaughter a crime," she said.

"We still lose too many people in the workplace and there are too many serious injuries.

"All workers deserve a safe workplace and the proposed laws send a clear message to employers that putting lives at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated."

Jack Brownlee died in a workplace accident. Picture: Facebook
Jack Brownlee died in a workplace accident. Picture: Facebook

Under the changes negligent employers will face fines of up to $16.5 million and individuals could be jailed for up to two decades.

The legislation will cover various workplace issues from diseases to mental health matters including suicide.

David Brownlee lost his 21-year-old son in a workplace accident when a trench he was laying pipe in collapsed in rural Victoria.

"Our young fella Jack went to work 18 months ago and never came home," Mr Brownlee said.

"At this stage we don't know what happened to our boy," Mr Brownlee said he hoped the new laws would save lives.

The legislation, which is heavily supported by unions, will apply to small businesses as well as government sectors and corporations.

WorkSafe Victoria will be given added powers to investigate the new offence.

alex.white@news.com.au