NSW could soon have the toughest industrial manslaughter laws in the country, after NSW ALP pledged 25 year jail terms for employers responsible for workplace deaths.
This would go further than Victorian ALP’s pledge earlier this year that vowed to introduce industrial manslaughter laws with jail terms of up to 20 years (see related article).
NSW Labor industrial relations spokesman, Adam Searle, said a state Labor government would significantly increase work safety law compliance and enforcement should it win the March state election. Speaking at Labor Party conference in Sydney, he said a clear message needed to be sent that there was still too many deaths in NSW workplaces and more needed to be done to prevent them.
“A key part of this will be a new law to properly address the issue of workplace death where it occurs as a result of breaches of work safety obligations.”
“We will consult with unions, employers and the community about the best model and the level of penalties, including length of jail terms, bearing in mind that manslaughter has a maximum penalty of 25 years' jail.”
“There will be appropriately harsh penalties for both corporations and individuals where that is warranted."
Safe Work Australia figures for 2016 show the rate of fatalities in NSW was 1.4 per 100,000 workers - the lowest rate since 2003. However, Mr Searle said WorkCover Authority of NSW figures suggest the overall number of fatalities increased between 2011 and 2013, before falling the following year. He said they started to climb again between 2013-14 to 2015-16.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO, James Pearson, told the Sydney Morning Herald that section 18 of the NSW Crimes Act already addressed instances of workplace safety breaches causing death, and that “opportunities to improve the effectiveness of existing regulation and enforcement measures should be addressed before consideration of any new offences.”
"Businesses want to do what they can to ensure that their workplaces are safe."