Media Release

11 December 2019

NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay has announced Labor will create a new industrial manslaughter offence with higher penalties including jail time, as part of major reforms to the State’s workplace safety laws.

The proposed changes come as the safety of worksites across NSW is called into question and the Berejiklian Government is completely missing in action.

There have been two crane collapses at construction sites in the past 10 days – one at Parramatta and another at Smeaton Grange. Two weeks ago, a 49-year-old plumber died following an accident at the new IMAX Darling Harbour construction site.

The shocking tragedy follows a spate of workplace fatalities in NSW, including the devastating death of 18-year-old apprentice Christopher Cassaniti in April.

Standing with Labor Leader Jodi McKay today at their home in Castle Hill, his heartbroken parents, Rob and Patrizia, who have formed the Touched By Christopher Foundation, today welcomed NSW Labor’s proposals.

Creating a new industrial manslaughter offence aims to not only make workplaces safer but also hold rogue companies to account for workplace deaths. Labor’s policy includes the re-establishment of an Industrial Court in NSW where workplace safety laws would be enforced.

In addition, Labor has committed to implementing reforms known as “Christopher’s Law”, which the Cassaniti family has been strongly campaigning for (see details below).

NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay said Labor’s proposed legislative reforms, which it will introduce in a Bill early next year, aim to prevent further tragedies on building sites across the state.

“Right now in Sydney, many of the buildings being put up are unsafe and the workers on those sites are unsafe – but Gladys Berejiklian is doing absolutely nothing.”

“One death is one too many, and every worker should come home. Christopher should have come home.”

“The pain the Cassanitis have gone through is horrendous. Our hearts go out to them and we must take action to ensure workers are safe and rogue employers are held accountable.”

Labor Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Adam Searle said there had been no improvement in workplace deaths since the Liberals and Nationals took office in 2011.

“It is unacceptable that NSW has the highest number of workplace fatalities in Australia,” Mr Searle said.

“The average number of workplace deaths per year stands at 56 under this Government – that is shocking and higher than when they took office.”

“It is clear the current laws are failing and a major overhaul of safety standards is needed, as well as increased enforcement of those standards.”

“It is crucial that unsafe practices are targeted before another person dies. Labor’s policy will strengthen safety standards, increase support for victims and families and hold rogue companies to account” — Adam Searle MLC, Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations  

Labor Shadow Minister for Consumer Protection Julia Finn added that the aim was to create a culture of workplace safety in NSW.

“For too long, the system has fostered and even rewarded a culture of taking risks and cutting corners, especially in the construction industry. Laws and culture need to change to ensure what happened to Christopher Cassaniti and his family doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

“It is time for NSW to adopt industrial manslaughter laws. Where employers create unsafe workplaces, and this leads to a worker’s death, those employers deserve to go to jail. It’s as simple as that.”

KEY CHANGES:         

  1. The creation of an industrial manslaughter offence in the Work Safety Act 2011 (NSW) with significant fines for businesses and their senior officers, with the possibility of up to 25 years’ jail for senior officers;
  2. The re-establishment of an Industrial Court in NSW, in which all work safety prosecutions would be brought, including cases of industrial manslaughter;
  3. Conferring new mechanisms to enforce rights and responsibilities that currently exist in work safety laws on the Industrial Relations Commission;
  4. Ensuring workers and their representatives can enforce workplace safety laws, including obligations on employers and insurers for work safety, through the IRC;
  5. Ensuring the highest safety standards for all successful tenderers for government contracts.


  1. Ensure all Safety Officers that are appointed to large scale construction sites are independent and not employees of the builder, so there is no incentive to turn a blind eye to an unsafe situation;
  2. Bring in third party valuers and estimators to check all bids and tenders on large scale construction, to eliminate poor construction practices due to cost cutting and time constraints;
  3. Ensure the white card cannot be obtained online, but is only available after an approved TAFE course or a similar approved course;
  4. Require apprentices to wear a different coloured Safety hardhat, so they are better able to be recognised and removed from inappropriate or unsafe situations;
  5. Require all supervisory personnel to complete a full Health and Safety Representative Course or a Cert IV in WHS, so they are more aware of the consequences of unsafe work practices