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The prosecution problem revisited - again!

Further to my recent blog on the limits of prosecutions (The prosecution problem revisited), the prosecution summary of the first case dealing with Wesley Ballantine's death at work has been published, The case follows a very familiar pattern:

  1. Two and a half year delay;

  2. Guilty plea;

  3. Penalty - 9% of the maximum; and

  4. No lessons learned.

This is not the Court's fault. All of the processes and findings seems entirely consistent with existing legal principles.


But is adds no value to improving workplace safety.


And I am at a loss to understand how Industrial Manslaughter, or any other penalty regime would have made any difference to the safety on that work site. Although, as I said in my last article, it appears industrial manslaughter has nothing to do with improved safety outcomes - only administrative convenience and public outcry.


But more practically, on reading the case summary, if we cannot start to have a discussion about gross negligence in these circumstances, then in all likelihood, the bar for industrial manslaughter will be set too high to ever act as a practical deterrent.


The case is entirely consistent with decades of failed, bureaucratic, administrative approaches to safety. Everything in place and documented - nothing done to manage the actual hazards. This is the problem in modern safety management, and this case is another missed opportunity to understand why "theoretical" safety ideas and paperwork failed in practice.


This is a case that demanded a proper inquiry, not a prosecution process.


This was an opportunity to bring together experts to try and understand the abject failure of the modern safety approach.


At the core of my objection to industrial manslaughter is simple intellectual laziness. Lets just keep doing the same old thing in the same way and see what happens. We know what happens - young men like Wesley will continue to die at work.


We do not need a change in penalties, we need a change in our entire approach - an outdated approach based on 1970's understanding of people and workplaces.


Health and safety needs genuine disruption, not more of the same.