An independent review says he Northern Territory should adopt tough penalties on employers in the form of industrial manslaughter laws to address its abnormally high rate of workplace deaths.

Safework says NT has the highest rate of workplace deaths per capita in the country.  Under the current law, the most serious charge that can be brough against an employer is reckless conduct, described as a "category one offence" which carries a maximum penalty of five years' jail for an individual.  And even with this, no one has been sent to jail as a result of NT's current workplace health and safety laws.

The independent review (.pdf link) from Tim Lyons recommends industrial manslaughter laws equal to manslaughter under the criminal code.  They should have the same maximum penalty for individuals - life imprisonment - or a fine of AU$10 Million for a body corporate.

"NT WorkSafe places insufficient emphasis on prosecutions and other 'hard' compliance," said Mr. Lyons.

He's also recommending inspectors have experience in the sectors they would investigate, augmented by more training.

"There is a need to upgrade the skills of the inspectorate in relation to both general compliance work and investigations, and to improve the system the inspectors rely on to be effective," Mr Lyons said to the ABC, "For example, many inspectors complained of having no, or at least inadequate, initial training and also of being unable to attend relevant vocational courses.

"NT WorkSafe's lack of consistency in training would seem to have a direct impact on the consistency of its investigations," Lyons said.