The number of workers killed in workplace accidents in 2003 is 56, or three per 100,000 workers. While any workplace fatality is one too many, worker fatality rates have been steadily falling to the extent that the rate per 100,000 workers is now 45% lower than in 1995.
Legislative proposals to repeal and amend the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 are at present the subject of legal drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. Drafting is at an advanced stage of development. However, it involves a detailed revision of the current legislative framework dealing with occupational health and safety and is a long and complicated process. There is ongoing consultation between officials of my Department and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and I expect to be in a position to introduce a Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill in April.
The Law Reform Commission published a consultation paper on corporate killing in October last. The Commission recommends that a new offence of corporate killing be established which would be prosecuted on indictment, without exclusion of any entity whether incorporated or not. The offence would apply to acts or omissions of a high managerial agent, which would be treated as those of the undertaking. This is much wider than in the context of workplace safety.
To give practical effect to these recommendations, I am taking the opportunity to provide for the creation of this new offence in law in the Bill on occupational health and safety now being prepared. This will have to be subject to the final views of the Law Reform Commission when its consultation process is complete and also subject to the advice of the Attorney General. My Department is in consultation with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and I hope it will be possible to include an appropriate provision in the new Bill.