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The West Australian opposition may join with the Greens to back legal changes making company managers liable for manslaughter charges if a worker dies due to an employer's negligence.

However, opposition mines and petroleum spokesman Jon Ford said it would be necessary to make sure the legislation targeted those directly responsible for the negligence and recklessness.

Debate on the changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Act and Criminal Code proposed by Greens MP Alison Xamon began in the state's upper house on Thursday.

Under the proposed changes, the offence of industrial manslaughter would see individuals convicted of an offence jailed for up to 20 years and companies fined up to $3 million.

Courts could also order companies to publicise the deaths.

"If a company tries to cut corners with safety, knew that there were serious risks in doing so and that results in a person dying, managers directly responsible for these decisions could face manslaughter charges under this bill," Ms Xamon said.

"It sends a very clear message that pursuing a profit at the expense of workers' lives will not be accepted."

Mr Ford said Labor agreed with the principle of the bill in trying to improve protection for workers, but he wanted assurances the laws would punish those directly responsible for negligence.

He raised the case of a worker killed in a truck accident, in which a parent company admitted liability but could not settle the matter because of other parties involved.

"There was the truck manufacturer, there was the brake manufacturer, the suppliers of the brake system, the contractors, the company operating the truck and lawyers for the driver," he told AAP.

"So do we want to capture all these sorts of people? I don't think so."

Mr Ford said he would refer to a committee for further scrutiny, but if that failed he would seek assurances from the Greens.

The government will not support the legislation.

Ms Xamon said in the past year there had been 15 work-related deaths in the state, up from nine the previous year.

If we can prevent just one death with tougher legislation, then we have an obligation to do that. Every worker has the right to go home at the end of the day," she said.

The West Australian

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