NSW Labor has committed to a range of health-and-safety-related policies should it win this weekend’s state election, including introducing industrial manslaughter laws, doubling SafeWork’s compliance functions, and cracking down on unlawful surveillance of injured workers.
It has also committed to returning safety prosecutions to a re-established Industrial Court, enacting anti bullying laws, and ensuring all successful government tenderers have the highest standards of workplace safety.
The 2019 NSW state election will be held on Saturday, 23 March and is expected to be close – polls at time of writing show the major parties are split 50-50 percent on a two-party preferred basis.
More than 160,000 people in NSW experienced a work-related injury or illness in the 2017-18 financial year, and Labor blames the Liberals and Nationals for reducing actions to enforce workplace safety.
Their action plan points to an 8 percent drop in notices issued, a 32 percent drop in fines issued, and a 46 percent drop in successful prosecutions since Labor last held office in 2011.
On industrial manslaughter, Labor has promised to enact a new law that deals specifically with workplace deaths, the maximum sentence of which could be 25 years imprisonment, consistent with the penalty for manslaughter under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
It says inconsistency in the current laws has created uncertainty as to which legislation should govern the investigation and prosecution of workplace deaths.
Other key commitments:
- Confer new mechanisms to enforce rights and responsibilities that currently exist in work safety and workers’ compensation laws on the Industrial Relation Commission
- Ensure workers and their representatives can enforce workplace safety laws, including obligations on employers and insurers for work safety, rehabilitation and return to work
- Strengthen employer obligations to provide employment opportunities for injured workers
- Provide incentives for employers to return injured workers back to the workplace
- Complete implementation of the Ten Year Framework for Prevention emerging from the National WHS Strategy 2012-2022
On worker privacy, Labor will require an employer or their insurer to obtain a court order before undertaking any covert surveillance of an employee or former employee.
“Currently, employers or their insurers may invade the privacy of employees and former employees outside the workplace. These intrusions often occur in the context of contested insurance claims.”
Labor has also committed to protecting workers in the ‘gig economy’ – promising to make workers eligible for workers compensation, and requiring gig work platforms to pay workers’ compensation insurance premiums.