NSW employers face penalties for industrial manslaughter

Legislative reforms to criminalize industrial manslaughter in NSW will bring the state in line with other jurisdictions and ensure individual and corporate employers face up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $20 million for the deaths of workers.

In response to the changes, which are to be implemented once a bill is passed by Parliament, a new unit will be established with the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to focus on pursuing accountability when an employee dies as a result of gross negligence at work.

In a joint statement, Attorney General Michael Daley and Minister for Work, Health and Safety Sophie Cotsis said the new bill highlights the importance of continued WHS reforms.

“Every workplace death is a tragedy and in cases where a person with a health and safety duty at work has been careless or irresponsible, he or she must be held to account,” Cotsis said.

“The offense of industrial manslaughter will apply to the worst of the worst cases where gross negligence has caused the death of a person in a workplace.”

NSW is the last state in mainland Australia where there is no industrial manslaughter.

The highest maximum penalty under current laws (WHS Act – Category 1) is five years’ imprisonment for an individual, and a fine of $3.8 million for corporate entities.

The NSW Government said the process to develop the new laws involved broad consultation across the community, including occupational health and safety experts, business groups, trade unions, legal stakeholders and families of people living on the work have perished.

The Attorney General noted that the “significant maximum penalties” for the new offense would underline for employers the importance of being proactive in meeting occupational health and safety obligations to ensure a safe working environment to offer.

“We intend to strengthen existing laws with a new industrial manslaughter offense to further deter unsafe work practices and send a clear message that those who endanger workers’ lives will be held accountable ” said Daley.