1. Victoria’s new workplace laws and how they impact an owners corporation
From 2003 until July 2020, almost 4,000 Australians have died due to a workplace incident. While rates are higher across different industries, the Victorian Government introduced an amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) via the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019.
Here, owners corporations could face a $16.6 million penalty should a negligent incident occur on the property. For the team at Kemps Peterson Legal, it’s a reminder for owners corporations to remain compliant and not become complacent.
“Industrial law is a highly complex and frequently litigated area. It’s often confusing for those outside of the law because of the way it’s spoken about. For example, the new regulations often talk about the laws applying to “individuals and bodies corporate”. For many people in community living and strata, they automatically think the legislation is calling out owners corporations. Rather, in this context, bodies corporate means an incorporated group, company, or business.
“In saying that, an owners corporation is a legal entity and the manslaughter laws do apply to them because of this, but I think the phrasing makes this slightly confusing and alarmist for owners corporations,” said Tom.
Owners corporations have a duty of care to maintain the common property
“Owners corporations have a duty of care to maintain the common property and to maintain a safe environment for anyone who enters or undertakes work. The owners corporation’s duty of care is to all contractors, owners, residents, visitors or general members of the public who enter common property. In terms of the new legislation, an owners corporation would have to breach their duty of care negligently, and that breach would have to result in death, to face the $16.6 million penalty.
“For example, your property has a ceiling issue — it’s sagging, cracking, falling apart, or showing signs of stress. This has been recorded, and there was a decision not to do anything about it. If the ceiling then collapsed and killed someone, this would be negligent. In such a case, it could be found to be manslaughter, and the owners corporation might face the $16.6 million penalty,” said Tom.