Rogue operators who flout dangerous goods laws will face up to 10 years in jail under beefed up legislation to be introduced in the wake of the toxic Tottenham fire.
Firefighters earlier this year called for tougher penalties against people illegally stockpiling toxic chemical waste such as that which fuelled the blaze that tore through a Tottenham warehouse last August.
The United Firefighters Union wrote to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in April calling for laws to protect emergency services workers and communities from toxic “death traps”.
Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy announced on Friday that a new “reckless conduct” offence would be introduced through a proposed Dangerous Goods Amendment (Penalty Reform) Bill 2019.
Operators could be jailed for up to 10 years for the manufacture, storage, transport, transfer, sale or use of dangerous goods that place a person in danger of death.
Companies that engage in reckless conduct that put people at risk of death will face fines of up to $6.4 million.
The proposed bill will increase existing penalties for failing to comply with the Dangerous Goods Act, with potential fines for companies endangering health and safety almost quadrupling from $806,000 to $3.2 million.
Ms Hennessy said the new laws would ensure penalties reflected the seriousness of dangerous actions that threaten workers, communities and first responders.
“Anyone manufacturing, storing, transporting, transferring, selling or using dangerous goods has a duty to keep their workers, the community and the environment safe and these tough new penalties make that very clear,” she said.
United Firefighters Union branch secretary Peter Marshall said the changes would help protect firefighters, who already had one of the most dangerous jobs in the community.
“Illegal dumpers create toxic time bombs that make an already dangerous job unacceptably more dangerous,” he said.
“Aside from the exposure to toxic chemicals, not knowing what is in those illegal warehouses is like trying to fight a fire with one arm tied behind your back – it’s unsafe for the firefighters and for the community.”