The family of a young traditionalist killed in a Sydney construction site collapse has called a $2 million fine for the scaffolding company involved “ridiculous”.
A judge fined Synergy Scaffolding Services $2 million today after apprentice Christopher Cassaniti was left crushed when 30 meters of scaffolding suddenly collapsed at his construction site in Sydney’s Macquarie Park in April 2019.
“It’s not a deterrent for any company. Two million dollars for a big builder is nothing,” said Cassiniti’s mother Patrizia.
“It’s laughable, but the thing is, it’s our maximum penalty, the referee just has to go by the book.”
The teenager and his 39-year-old colleague Khaled Wehbe had been working through their lunch break to finish some extra work.
The scaffolding fell and they were trapped. Wehbe, although seriously wounded, survived the ordeal and held Cassaniti’s hand to the end.
“Wehbe suffered serious injuries but was conscious when he saw Christopher die,” Judge Andrew Scotting said in his sentencing.
“The impact of his injuries and the horror of that moment continues to affect him.”
Today, the judge said the incident continues to haunt Cassaniti’s family.
“Christopher’s parents, brothers, family and friends continue to suffer tremendous heartache, grief and loss,” Scotting said.
Patrizia said despite today’s verdict, the loss of her son will never get easier.
“Christopher’s loss is forever. It’s a life sentence,” she said.
“It makes no difference what we feel, it’s not going to change our lives.”
Two other people on the scaffold jumped to safety, while three others working nearby had to run to avoid injury.
A study showed that the scaffolding was able to hold 675 kg per level, but at the time of the collapse it was grossly overloaded with 17,905 kg of building materials.
Scotting said the case is about Synergy Scaffolding Services’ “culpability” for the incident, but there were several contributing factors to the collapse, including workers on site removing ties to the building to do their own work without a permit.
“This case should serve as a telling reminder that unsafe actions on a construction site can and do lead to catastrophic consequences,” Scotting said.
“Workers considering such unsafe actions should pause to consider what they might say to the people whose lives have been torn apart by the possible consequences of their actions.”
The fine issued to Synergy Scaffolding Services is not the largest of its kind as the maximum penalty in NSW is $3 million.
Cassaniti’s parents are calling for industrial manslaughter laws to be introduced in NSW.
“Every other state has got industrial manslaughter in place, our state should too,” Patrizia said.