18 December 2020
Labor is once again calling for the creation of industrial manslaughter laws in NSW, with higher penalties including prison time, to ensure bosses are held accountable for workplace deaths. Labor will reintroduce legislation into Parliament as soon as possible in 2021.
The calls come after the defendant company in the Christopher Cassaniti matter was handed a $900,000 fine in the District Court. 18-year-old Mr Cassaniti was crushed to death in a workplace accident in Sydney’s north-west in 2019.
The judge initially issued a $1.2 million fine but gave a 25 per cent discount due to a guilty plea by the defendant. The judge said the offence was of the ‘utmost severity’, and given the circumstances ‘almost certain to occur’. He added that the steps to avoid the risk were ‘simple and inexpensive’.
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.
Labor Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Adam Searle said the tragic death of Christopher Cassaniti illustrates the need for these new laws, which would include the re-establishment of an Industrial Court in NSW where workplace safety laws would be enforced.
Mr Searle also committed to implementing reforms known as “Christopher’s Law”, which the Cassaniti family has been strongly 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. We must take action to ensure workers are safe and rogue employers are held accountable,” Mr Searle said.
“The current laws are failing and a major overhaul of safety standards is needed. There must also be increased enforcement of those standards, because employers and other businesses that do the wrong thing must be held to account when someone is killed on their watch” — Adam Searle MLC, Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations
Shadow Minister for Consumer Protection Julia Finn said: “We need to develop a culture that supports workplace safety in NSW, not a culture that’s all about cutting corners and unsafe workplaces.
“Deaths at work should always be treated as the most serious kind of case and punished accordingly. It’s as simple as that,” Ms Finn said.
Labor proposed changes to the State’s workplace safety laws following a spate of workplace fatalities and injuries in NSW, but was defeated in a close 19-18 vote in the Legislative Council in March this year.