25 February, 2024
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New laws bring tougher penalties, longer imprisonment and better protections for dust diseases

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The Minns Labor Government has doubled penalties and prison terms under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 as part of a suite of measures to create safer workplaces across the state.

Under the former government, workplace safety penalties were frozen for nearly 10 years.

Despite an Australia-wide ban on the manufacture, use and importation of asbestos coming into force in 2004, to this day, asbestos continues to still make its way into NSW workplaces.

These new laws will:

  • Increase every court penalty imposed in NSW relating to unsafe workplaces
  • Increase maximum fines from $798,383 to $2,168,029 and the maximum imprisonment time from 5 years to 10 years, for the worst offences under Work Health and Safety (WHS) Laws, known as Category 1 offences.
  • Empower SafeWork to issue a ‘prohibited asbestos notice,’ to direct people and employers to take safety measures to remove and manage asbestos in the workplace. These amendments will enable the work health and safety regulator to ensure that prohibited asbestos, also referred to as illegally installed asbestos, is removed permanently from workplaces.
  • Stop employers gaming WHS laws by banning the use of insurance to pay for WHS fines as a ‘cost of doing business”’.
  • Establish a silica worker register to track and trace exposed workers to enable early intervention and better healthcare research.

The silica register is one part of a comprehensive response the NSW Government is pursuing, including increased silicosis screening, worker education and industry compliances blitzes, while the Commonwealth process nears completion.

Commonwealth WHS Ministers will meet in coming weeks to decide on a new regulatory framework or ban on manufactured stone.

These new laws will also clarify powers and responsibilities of inspectors and the liability of corporations for the actions of officers, employees and agents.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Work Health and Safety and Industrial Relations. Sophie Cotsis:

“I’m sick and tired of seeing lives unnecessarily lost and people being injured at work. These new laws demonstrate just how seriously this government takes keeping workers safe in NSW.

“Everyone deserves a safe place to work, everyone deserves to come home safely to their family and loved ones”.

Sophie Cotsis

Minister for Work Health and Safety

Minister for Industrial Relations

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