Increased Penalties for Failure to Comply with Vic Dangerous Goods Laws

Wednesday 13 November 2019 @ 9.03 a.m. | Legal Research

The Dangerous Goods Amendment (Penalty Reform) Bill 2019 (Vic) (“the Bill”) was introduced into the Victorian Legislative Assembly by Attorney-General Jill Hennessy on 27 August 2019. The Bill was the Government's response to the discovery of various chemical waste stockpiles in Victoria, which also sparked a parliamentary committee inquiry into recycling and waste management in Victoria. The Bill passed both houses of parliament by 31 October 2019 without amendment. On 6 November 2019, the Bill received the royal assent. The whole of the Dangerous Goods Amendment (Penalty Reform) Act 2019 (Vic) (“the Act”) commenced on 7 November 2019.

The Act introduces a new offence for reckless conduct with respect of dangerous goods and increases the penalties of various offences in the Dangerous Goods Act 1985 (Vic) (“the Dangerous Goods Act”).

What is a Dangerous Good?

Dangerous goods are substances which are:

  • corrosive
  • flammable
  • combustible
  • explosive
  • oxidising
  • water-reactive, or
  • have other hazardous properties.

Dangerous goods can result in fires, explosions, damage, injury, or even death. The Dangerous Goods Act defines substances which are dangerous goods. Some examples of some common dangerous goods include petrol, turpentine, hydrochloric acid, LP gas, and asbestos.

Due to the associated risks to public health and safety, the storage, handling, manufacture, transport, sale, import, disposal, and use of dangerous goods are regulated through the Dangerous Goods Act. Failure to comply with the duties prescribed under the Dangerous Goods Act results in fines and other penalties.

Amendments under the Act

The Act introduces a new offence into the Dangerous Goods Act for conduct regarding dangerous goods that endangers a person’s life. Under the newly inserted section 31D(1) of the Dangerous Goods Act:

“A person must not, without lawful excuse, recklessly engage in the manufacture, storage, transport, transfer, sale or use of dangerous goods that places, or may place, a person in danger of death.”

If found guilty of this offence, the guilty party will face a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment for an individual, or a fine of up to 40,000 penalty units for a corporation (a fine which amounts to approximately $6.7 million).

The Act also amends the Dangerous Goods Act by increasing the penalty for various offences, including where the offender knew or ought to reasonably have known that their actions would endanger the safety or health of another person, property or the environment. For individual offenders, the penalty will increase from four to five years imprisonment and from $161,000 to $290,000. For corporations, the fines will increase from $806,000 to $3.2 million.

The Act also doubles fines for a range of other offences, including:

  • failure to comply with a WorkSafe inspector
  • failure to take reasonable precautions for the prevention of tampering, theft, fire, explosion or damage
  • abandoning, discarding, or neglecting to correctly dispose of dangerous goods
  • causing or acting in such a way to likely cause an accident involving dangerous goods
  • failure to comply with requirements regarding goods deemed too dangerous for transportation.

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