Executives face up to 20 years in prison and companies fines of up to $10 million if their carelessness leads to a Queensland mine or quarry worker being killed on site.
Those are the penalties for the new offence of industrial manslaughter in the state’s resources industry.
The law brings the resources sector into line with every other industry, but with higher financial penalties.
It comes after the deaths of eight men in less than two years, and a recent underground gas explosion that has left four men critical in hospital and a fifth injured.
“A safety culture needs to be modelled right from the top and creating the offence of industrial manslaughter is to ensure senior company officers do all they can to create a safe mine site,” Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said.
A report in February found the state’s mining industry was in the grip of a death cycle and that more people would die if it did not overhaul its safety practices.
“Almost all of the fatalities were the result of systemic, organisational, supervision or training failures, either with or without the presence of human error,” Dr Sean Brady wrote.
There have been more recent deaths in Queensland than in any other state.
The union representing those workers says the law was needed to ensure bosses and firms were responsible for their actions.
“These laws aren’t just about punishing the guilty,” CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth said.
“They’re about making people accountable for safety on their watch.”
Meanwhile, a piece of legislation that would have allowed paroled inmates to leave Queensland prisons early and cut their risk of homelessness has been scrapped.
The amendment would have given the Queensland Corrective Services chief executive power to order someone’s release from custody up to seven days before their parole date.
That would give them the flexibility to get home to remote or regions of the state at a time when flights are limited.
Travel restrictions enforced as part of efforts to stop the spread of the virus are impacting release arrangements and put “prisoners at risk of homelessness”, the state government’s bill said.
The measure was introduced to parliament by Deputy Premier Steven Miles on Tuesday as part of emergency response legislation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says it was “misinterpreted” and is no longer a priority for the government.
Extending early and late release rules to include inmates being released from custody on parole is also included in a corrective services bill designed to make that law more flexible.
It is understood the provision will not go ahead in both pieces of legislation, despite being ticked off by cabinet.