Workplace Health and Safety Offences 2018-06-28T15:01:01+00:00

Workplace Health & Safety Offences

The purpose of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the act) is to enable protection of health, safety and welfare of all workers. Accordingly, the legislation creates offences for the failure to comply with workplace health and safety duties.

The purpose of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the act) is to enable protection of health, safety and welfare of all workers. Accordingly, the legislation creates offences for the failure to comply with workplace health and safety duties. These offences are fragmented in 3 separate categories.

Category 1, being the most serious category relates to reckless conduct. Section 31 of the act provides that:

A person commits a “category 1 offence” if —

  • the person has a health and safety duty; and
  • the person, without reasonable excuse, engages in conduct that exposes an individual to whom that duty is owed to a risk of death or serious injury or illness; and
  • the person is reckless as to the risk to an individual of death or serious injury or illness.

The maximum penalties for this offence are as follows:

  • for an offence committed by an individual, other than as a person conducting a business or undertaking or as an officer of a person conducting a business or undertaking—3,000 penalty units or 5 years imprisonment; or
  • for an offence committed by an individual as a person conducting a business or undertaking or as an officer of a person conducting a business or undertaking—6,000 penalty units or 5 years imprisonment; or
  • for an offence committed by a body corporate—30,000 penalty units.

A category 2 offence is defined as:

A person commits a “category 2 offence” if —

  • the person has a health and safety duty; and
  • the person fails to comply with that duty; and
  • the failure exposes an individual to a risk of death or serious injury or illness.

The maximum penalties for this offence are as follows:

  • for an offence committed by an individual, other than as a person conducting a business or undertaking or as an officer of a person conducting a business or undertaking—1,500 penalty units; or
  • for an offence committed by an individual as a person conducting a business or undertaking or as an officer of a person conducting a business or undertaking—3,000 penalty units; or
  • for an offence committed by a body corporate—15,000 penalty units.

Finally, the least serious offence namely a category 3 offence is defined as:

A person commits a “category 3 offence” if —

  • the person has a health and safety duty; and
  • the person fails to comply with that duty.

The maximum penalties for this offence are:

  • for an offence committed by an individual, other than as a person conducting a business or undertaking or as an officer of a person conducting a business or undertaking—500 penalty units; or
  • for an offence committed by an individual as a person conducting a business or undertaking or as an officer of a person conducting a business or undertaking—1,000 penalty units; or
  • for an offence committed by a body corporate—5,000 penalty units.

The legislation provides exceptions to the above offences in certain circumstances. These exceptions are:

  • A volunteer does not commit an offence under this division for a failure to comply with a health and safety duty, except a duty under section 28 or 29.
  • An unincorporated association does not commit an offence under this Act, and is not liable for a civil penalty under this Act, for a failure to comply with a duty or obligation imposed on the unincorporated association under this Act.  However;
  • an officer of an unincorporated association (other than a volunteer) may be liable for a failure to comply with a duty under section 27 ; and
  • a member of an unincorporated association may be liable for failure to comply with a duty under section 28 or 29.

Category 1 offences will be required to be committed to the District Court of Queensland given the severity of the penalties available. Category 2 & 3 offences will be finalised in the Magistrates Court of Queensland.

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