Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

A worker has died every week in this state since 2013. Here’s what could help change that

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun1,2024
Key Points
  • The NSW government introduced the legislation to parliament on Tuesday.
  • Authorities say the toughest penalties will apply to the “worst of the worst cases” of negligence.
  • The 25-year jail term is on par with the maximum penalty in Victoria, but slightly higher fines will apply in NSW.
Businesses and individuals found responsible for NSW workplace deaths through gross negligence will be hit with Australia’s harshest penalties under new industrial manslaughter laws.

The NSW government introduced legislation to parliament on Tuesday allowing for individuals to be sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in jail for the offence, while corporations can be fined up to $20 million.

The jail term is on par with the maximum penalty in Victoria, but slightly higher fines will apply in NSW.
No other mainland jurisdiction has a 25-year maximum sentence for industrial manslaughter, although NSW will be the last mainland state or territory to introduce the offence.
Work Health and Safety Minister Sophie Cotsis said industrial manslaughter laws were not designed to be used but were “entirely necessary” after 300 fatal workplace incidents in the past five years.
“That’s 300 families who have been given a life sentence,” she told parliament.
“We have seen too many cases of workers dying on a worksite … by a fatal fall from a roof, through an uncovered hole, electrocution, a crash injury from moving equipment or heavy vehicles, or injuries from moving equipment and heavy objects.”

No new health and safety obligations are created by the laws, but instead reinforce the importance of complying with those duties, the minister said.

The penalties align with recommendations by Unions NSW after analysis of Safe Work Australia data found a worker had died in the state at an average rate of one per week since 2013.
Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said all members of parliament should listen to community concerns and pass the bill.
“When a worker doesn’t return home it is a life-altering trauma for their loved ones … it is simply unacceptable workers continue to lose their lives due to negligent and unsafe practices,” he told AAP.
“Industrial manslaughter laws will deliver justice for victims and their families.”
The most serious workplace offences, including deaths, are currently covered under the top tier of health and safety laws and carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail for individuals or a $3.8 million fine for corporations.

But Cotsis said prosecuting manslaughter laws was difficult because criminal negligence by a specific individual acting as the directing mind and will of the company must be proven.

The Director of Public Prosecutions will be responsible for handling the prosecution of individuals and, in some cases, corporations if the laws are passed.
Community consultation on the new laws included interactions with work health and safety experts, business groups, legal stakeholders and the families of people who have been killed at work.

A Liberal party spokesman said their former government agreed to a national approach to industrial manslaughter in 2023, but wouldn’t confirm its position on the bill.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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