Report urges industrial manslaughter laws

ACTU President Michele O'Neil and loved ones of those killed are calling for new industrial laws. (AAP)

Australia should have federal industrial manslaughter laws to punish negligent deaths at work, a Labor-chaired Senate committee has recommended.

Bosses of people killed at work could face lengthy jail terms and massive fines under new federal laws recommended by a Senate committee .

The Labor-chaired inquiry into workplace deaths found a new national offence of industrial manslaughter should be created to target negligent corporations.

Unions have been pushing for national legislation as a deterrent to workplace deaths, of which there have been 97 across the country this year.

"No one should go to work and not come home," committee chair and Labor senator Gavin Marshall told parliament.

"A rise in precarious employment practices and the pursuit by many companies of profit at all costs has led to a reckless disregard for the welfare of workers."

Families cried in the upper house's public galleries on Wednesday evening as senators remembered the deaths of their loved ones.

A group had gathered at Parliament House in Canberra to see the report's release, hoping it could prevent other families from experiencing what they had.

Kay Catanzariti's crusade to change workplace laws was sparked by her 21-year-old son Ben dying at on a Canberra construction site in 2012.

"All our loved ones should have come home from work," she said.

After a Senate inquiry earlier in the year, the committee found Queensland industrial manslaughter laws, which include jail terms of up to 20 years and $10 million fines, should be a starting point for federal legislation.

The report also recommended treating all investigations of workplace deaths as potential crime scenes, rather than accidents.

Included in the 34 recommendations are a range of measures to help grieving families include better access to outreach programs, along with more money for counselling and mental health.

The report says unions and families should have the right to bring forward cases under proposed manslaughter laws on behalf of workers.

ACTU secretary Michele O'Neil secretary urged the government to act on the report, saying families had waited too long for change.

"We urgently need national, uniform industrial manslaughter laws," Ms O'Neil said.

Liberal senator Slade Brockman said while one death at work was too many, fatalities had fallen by 50 per cent over the past decade.

Coalition senators opposed the need for new industrial manslaughter laws because they would undermine existing workplace safety legislation.

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