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Harold Downes

Harold Downes


Harold specialises in strategic planning and advice for all aspects of employee relations, particularly workplace health and safety.



He advises on compliance and dealings with regulators; represents corporations and their executive officers in prosecutions; and provides management training in this area. 

Harold assist clients in the management of their risk and safety governance and compliance, as well as across all aspects of employee relations. He provides pragmatic advice tailored to the specific environment to meet the business imperatives of each individual client. Harold’s brings practical and strategic risk management experience to his work with clients. He advises on all issues relating to OHS and HR strategies to mitigate legal and operational risk. Harold has extensive experience in crisis management.

Harold has extensive experience in the resources, energy, oil and gas, construction, banking and manufacturing industries. For example, Harold has been invited to chair the judging panel for the Queensland Major Contractors Excellence in Safety Awards every year since 2005. Harold also regularly conducts training for clients as part of their compliance programs.

Harold advises clients on employment issues ranging from workplace investigations, long term absentee management, staff and executive contracts of employment, terminations for breach, misconduct, incapacity and organisational change.

Given the overlap of health and safety with employment, Harold regularly advises on the efficacy and regulatory compliance of work related policies such as Director Indemnities and D&O Insurance, Crisis or Incident Responses Protocols, Fitness for Work, Drugs & Alcohol, Fatigue, Workplace Behaviour and Long Term Absentee Management protocols.

Harold's experience includes:

  • strategic advice to Santos in respect of its contractor management risk management options
  • post-fatality representation up to a coronial inquiry stage for BHP Billiton Cannington Mine
  • national WHS advisor for Visy Industries in respect of its strategy for risk mitigation and incident response
  • ground up design and development of Officer Due Diligence compliance plans for Suncorp Group Limited’s non executive and executive directors and executive leadership team
  • serious misconduct advice for statutory corporation including liaison with the Crime and Misconduct Commission
  • advice on risk management strategy on major projects including the SRWP Project, the M7 Tunnel, the NSBT Tunnel Project, the D&C and O&M Contracts for the Airport Link Project, and the ODP1 Project.


Harold has a Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Free State and advanced diploma in labour law obtained from the Rand Afrikaans University. He is admitted to practise in the Supreme Courts of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, as well as the High Court of Australia.

Harold practised as an attorney in South Africa from the early 1980s, 10 of those years as a law firm partner. He joined Freehills in 2002.