Manslaughter bill passes through parliament

The Work Health and Safety Bill passed through the WA Senate on Wednesday night.

The new legislation will mean employers could face criminal charges for negligence causing an employee’s death.

Construction sites at Curtin University. Photo: Ashleigh Davis.

Special Counsel at Allion Partners Lawyers Dr Garry Claxton says the legislation is a win for all workers.

“Even though West Australia dragged the chain [in updating the law], we got there in the end and I’m pleased to say that both sides of politics supported it,” Dr Claxton says.

Garry Claxton’s description of the industrial relations court room scenes. Audio: Ashleigh Davis.

Similar bills have been introduced to the WA parliament in the last decade, including one by Greens MLC Alison Xamon in 2010.

Earlier in the week, hundreds of people gathered outside parliament house to demand new laws to make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence.

Current WA law means that if an employer is found guilty of negligence resulting in death of a worker, they only face a fine.

Former Greens member Lynn MacLaren says the passing of the bill is long overdue.

“It’s very exciting that the Labor government has acted with alacrity following the recent deaths of young people on job sites,” she says.

Collapsed roof at Curtin University. Photo: Kenith Png.

It has been nine days since Jonnie Hartshorn became the 23rd construction-related fatality in Australia in 2020.

The 23-year-old died after falling over 20 metres from a collapsed glass roof on a construction site at Curtin University.

Today the university held a gathering to honour the life of the young apprentice.

Curtin University’s celebration of the life of Jonnie Hartshorn. Photo: Ashleigh Davis.

A minute’s silence was observed before attendees lay rosemary at the foot of the flagpoles in commemoration.

President of Curtin’s student guild Hana Arai says it’s been a tough time.

“The university is assisting Jonnie’s family through such a devastating time and the memorial ceremony today was part of that sentiment,” Ms Arai says.

Images from the memorial. Photos: Ashleigh Davis.

Ms Arai says Jonnie’s death could have been prevented if the Work Health and Safety Bill had been passed sooner.

“The bill was stalled in the Upper House for far too long and now another construction site worker has tragically lost his life,” she says.

“Jonnie’s death and the protests was just enough to wake people up and offer a public push for the change in legislation.”

Hana Arai discussing the impact Jonnie’s death had on Curtin students. Video: Ashleigh Davis.

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