Multi-million dollar fines and decades of jail time is on the cards for companies found responsible for workplace deaths if a bill proposed by NSW Labor succeeds next year.
NSW Opposition leader Jodi McKay on Wednesday announced the party’s plan to introduce to parliament a bill creating an industrial manslaughter offence and strengthening workplace safety laws.
It would also seek to re-establish the Industrial Court in NSW.
Ms McKay made the announcement beside Rob and Patrizia Cassaniti, who have been lobbying for change since their 18-year-old son Christopher was crushed by collapsed scaffolding in April.
“As a mum, it doesn’t even cross your mind to pray for them (your kids) to come home safe from work,” Ms Cassaniti told media from their family home in Castle Hill.
“You pray for them to come home because they’re driving and they’ve just gotten their license, or they’re going out.”
“It’s a necessity to come home safe from work, not a privilege.”
Labor’s bill will also include “Christopher’s Law”, which would mandate independent safety officers on all large scale construction sites, require apprentices to wear different coloured hard hats and ensure construction ‘white cards’ can only be obtained through approved course providers.
The announcement follows a recent spate of recent workplace accidents and deaths in NSW, with one in the last two weeks and five in September alone.
Queensland, NT and the ACT have industrial manslaughter laws, and the WA and Victorian governments are in the process of introducing them.
The Cassaniti family said NSW’s own laws are long overdue.
“Why is a NSW worker’s life less important than a Queenslander’s or Victorian’s?” Rob Cassaniti said.
While the Berejiklian government has ruled out creating an industrial manslaughter offence, it will introduce a workplace safety bill to parliament next year, which Labor says it will try to amend if their own fails.
Ms McKay says the party has a strong chance of getting their bill or amendments through the upper house but would rely on votes from coalition MPs for it to pass the lower house.
“Ultimately, this rests with the current government, and I would urge them to think about Christopher’s situation and what took Christopher’s life,” Ms McKay said.
“There are families who will go into Christmas, who have lost loved ones, simply because they went to work. How is that acceptable?”
Labor will propose the jail term for industrial manslaughter should match criminal manslaughter – up to 25 years – but are still consulting on the figure of the fines.