Scaffolding company fined $2 million over young tradie’s death

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A Sydney scaffolding company has been fined millions of dollars over the construction accident that claimed the life of a young apprentice.

In April 2019, 18-year-old Christopher Cassaniti was working as an apprentice on a construction site in Macquarie Park when disaster struck.

The site perimeter scaffolding gave way and collapsed onto Mr. Cassaniti, who was working directly below.

He was stuck under the rubble for 20 minutes before he died.

Christopher Cassaniti celebrates his 18th birthday at work.  Facebook
Camera iconChristopher Cassaniti celebrates his 18th birthday at work. Facebook Credit: Provided

Mr Cassaniti’s work colleague, Khaled Wehbe, was also trapped in the rubble and injured.

In July this year, the company responsible for the structure, Synergy Scaffolding Services Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty to a Category 1 offense under NSW occupational safety laws.

Fair Trade Minister Eleni Petinos said the procedure was the first of its kind for SafeWork NSW since major changes were made to strengthen workplace health safety laws.

“No family should ever have to experience the tragedy of losing a loved one to an incident at work, as Cassinitis did,” Ms Petinos said.

“This reminds us that our labor, health and safety laws are important and must be followed by all operators.”

Scaffolding
Camera iconThe scene of a scaffolding collapse in Macquarie Park. 9 NEWS Credit: Provided

On Friday, NSW District Court Judge Andrew Scotting ruled that Synergy workers were put in “significant danger” with the collapse of the structure following a “climax of events”.

The court heard that the scaffolding carried a load of almost 18 tonnes, exceeding its maximum capacity.

He also learned that between March of that year and the day of its collapse, the scaffolding company knew it was “grossly overloaded”.

“This case should serve as a telling reminder that unsafe acts on a construction site can and do lead to catastrophic consequences,” Justice Scotting said.

“The overloading of the scaffolding, the absence of vertical bracing, the removal of the crossbeams and the removal of the crossbeams made the likelihood of the risk occurring so high that it was almost certain.”

Judge Scotting acknowledged the loss of the Cassaniti family, who had described Christopher as a hard-working, kind and gentle young man.

Christopher Cassaniti is remembered as a kind and gentle young man.  Facebook
Camera iconChristopher Cassaniti is remembered as a kind and gentle young man. Facebook Credit: Provided

He said any employer would have been proud to have such an “eager to learn” man on their team.

He also acknowledged Mr Wehbe’s trauma after the incident and how he will continue to be affected by “the horror of this moment”.

In 2020, Synergy was fined $900,000 and, at the time, Judge Scotting said any measure to minimize the risk of an accident was “simple and inexpensive”.

The company was fined $2 million, after the sentence was reduced by 10% for an early guilty plea.

The maximum penalty for violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act is $3 million.

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