The NSW Labour call for industrial manslaughter laws with higher penalties

Australian Workplace Safety - The NSW Labour call for industrial manslaughter laws with higher penalties

NSW Labour Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Adam Searle, has confirmed that NSW Labour will reintroduce legislation into parliament in 2021 for the creation of industrial manslaughter laws with higher penalties including prison time, to ensure Managers and Supervisors are held accountable for workplace fatalities.

Statistics and Research Show that:  3,751 workers were fatally injured while working from 2003 to 2018..

NSW had rejected introducing specific industrial manslaughter laws and instead relying on the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) that imposes 25 years imprisonment. The Crimes Act 1900, is a New South Wales statute that sets out the majority of criminal offences for the state of New South Wales in Australia. Along with the Crimes Act 1914, and the Federal Criminal Code Act 1995, these three pieces of legislation form the majority of criminal law for New South Wales.  However, there was a move to amend the model WHS Act to provide for a new offence of industrial manslaughter (see the National Review of the Model WHS Laws).

Industrial Manslaughter Laws are being Enforce to Bring accountability

This renewed call follows the sentencing hearing in December 2020, of the defendant company in the death of Christopher Cassaniti that was fined $900,000 in the District Court. Whilst workplaces fatalities are increasing, the complexity of corporate structures, along with the indemnity insurance cover in the event of negligent claims; has made it difficult to prosecute directors and management as well as, keeping them accountable for workplace safety.  In addition, there has been a cry that the penalties are too lenient, which is allowing a laxed attitude to safety that is endangering the workers lives

The offence was described as “utmost severity”, ironically, the steps to avoid the risk were “simple and inexpensive”.

Christopher Cassaniti, the eighteen-year-old died in a scaffolding workplace accident in Sydney’s north-west in April 2019. According to Adam Searle’s statement, the prosecutor accepted a plea to a category 2 offence, which had a maximum penalty of $1.5 million. The most serious kind of case, category 1, carried a maximum penalty at the time of the offence of $3 million.
The judge had given a 25% discount due to the defendant’s guilty plea. The judge said the offence was of the “utmost severity” and, given the circumstances, “almost certain to occur”, adding that the steps to avoid the risk were “simple and inexpensive”.

Christopher’s Law’

Adam Searle had committed to implementing reforms known as ‘Christopher’s Law’, which the Cassaniti family has been campaigning for, to ensure special protections for apprentices and young people entering the construction industry. “One death is one too many, and every worker should come home,” Searle said. “We must take action to ensure workers are safe and rogue employers are held accountable.”

In a separate statement, CFMEU Construction criticised the regulator, SafeWork NSW, and the NSW Government for the handling of the Cassaniti case and the state’s lack of industrial manslaughter laws. “This continues a pattern of behaviour from SafeWork NSW where they fail to investigate matters properly or prosecute builders appropriately,” CFMEU NSW Construction Secretary Darren Greenfield said. “The NSW Government’s failure to pass industrial manslaughter laws like those in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia shows they are putting corporate greed ahead of workers’ lives.”

Queensland took the lead followed by the other states and territories …

Queensland took the initiative by introducing the industrial manslaughter law in response to the tragic fatalities at Dreamworld and an Eagle Farm work site in 2016, prompted by the undertaking of the ‘Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety in Queensland’

For the ACT it all started in 2003, with an offence under its general criminal legislation. The ACT provisions for industrial manslaughter introduced in 2004. ACT Crimes Act 1900 (A1900-40) R32 13 July 2004 p44.  Prosecutors brought the first case over a decade later in 2014, only to drop the charges in 2016. A second prosecution in relation to a fatality at the University of Canberra Hospital construction site. 

When will NSW introduce this law

“An incident is just the tip of the iceberg, a sign of a much larger problem below the surface.” – Don Brown.

SafeWork NSW Inspectors focus on the building & Construction Industry
Picture of Faith Eeson

Faith Eeson

Faith has over 20 years experience working in a large government organisations; medium and small business organisations with roles from administration, Workplace Safety Management System (OHSMS); Injury Management and Rehabilitation; Safety Audit; Records Management, Investigation and Training. Faith has owned and managed various business such as boutiques, retail stores and currently a commercial cleaning service and safety management businesses.



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