A worker undertaking asbestos removal work at the University of Wollongong who fell through a portion of roof and sustained head injuries has died in hospital, prompting renewed calls for NSW to adopt industrial manslaughter laws and stronger regulations.
NSW CFMEU assistant secretary Rob Kera explained that “it is just not good enough. We are only in the second week of the year and NSW has already experienced its first death on a construction site.”
“No one should die at work and we are deeply saddened for this man’s family, friends and workmates,” Mr Kera said.
“Our hearts and condolences go out to his family. We know too well just how devastating it is for families to lose a loved one at work. No worker should ever not come home because of a lack of safety on the job.
Mr Kera said that NSW has “an appalling recent record of workers being killed and injured on NSW construction sites.”
He then went on to criticise the workplace safety regulator, SafeWork NSW, saying that the organisation “seems unable to meet its essential role of keeping workers safe,” he said.
“It is alarming to see how many construction companies and bosses think they can cut corners and put their own profits above worker safety.
“How many workers must die before the NSW government realises we need strong industrial manslaughter laws with the threat of serious jail time?”
Kevin Anderson, the Minister for Better Regulation, has previously explained that he would rather prioritise improving “risky work practices,” rather than the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws.
However, Adam Searle, Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations believes that the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws would be “a strong, clear message… about how seriously we take the issues of workplace safety and deaths as a society.”
NSW recorded the highest workplace fatalities across Australia last year. Queensland has introduced the laws and prosecuted under them, while the ACT also has legislation in place. Victoria and Western Australia both have indicated that they are introducing the legislation to parliament this year.