NSW government to hold building companies, bosses accountable for poor workplace safety


“Business owners and company directors who deliberately ignore safety issues and put their
workers at risk of injury and death have no right to operate in this state.

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“The vast majority of employers are great leaders and know the value of their employees … this message is not intended for them. This is for employers who prioritise that extra dollar in the bank, with little regard for the health and safety of their workers who make that dollar possible.”

Inspectors will also be empowered to demand answers and documents from any workplace they have entered in the previous 30 days.

Families of victims will receive three-monthly progress reports on investigations into a death.

The proposed new laws come in the wake of a series of building site accidents last year including the death of 18-year-old Christopher Cassaniti, who was crushed after scaffolding collapsed on him and a co-worker at a construction site in Macquarie Park in April last year.

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The bill stops short of adopting a new offence of industrial manslaughter, which was recommended last year by former executive director of SafeWork South Australia Marie Boland, following an independent review of national workplace safety laws. Ms Boland said the industrial manslaughter offence was necessary to make employers liable for gross negligence of their workers and address community concerns and limitations in existing criminal manslaughter laws.

Labor has made a policy commitment to introduce industrial manslaughter laws under Work Health and Safety legislation. Its industrial relations spokesman Adam Searle said the government’s bill fails to properly respond to the Boland review.

“The bill they have introduced is still directed at managing risks which is important, but is not enough,” he said.

“It fails to include an offence of industrial manslaughter. It fails to include an offence that deals with the consequences of workplace deaths like Queensland and Victoria.”

Mr Anderson said the “gross negligence” offence would be easier to prosecute than industrial manslaughter and the existing offence of “recklessness”.

“If a worker is seriously injured, killed, or simply if there is a risk of either of those things occurring in a workplace, the person responsible could face time behind bars, as well as receive substantial fines,” he said. “We will make it crystal clear in legislation that a worker’s death can result in a charge of manslaughter, under the NSW Crimes Act.”

“It has been suggested that a new type of manslaughter that’s just for business owners and
company directors. However, what I struggle to understand is why anyone needs to die before
we take the strongest possible action.”

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the government proposal is “at best a half measure and will not provide the deterrent effect needed in boardrooms”.

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