Sydney scaffolding firm hit with $2million fine over tradie death

Construction firm hit with $2million fine after tradie, 18, was killed by overloaded scaffolding – but his heartbroken parents slam ‘laughable’ punishment

  • Christopher Cassaniti, 18, was crushed to death by 30m of scaffolding in 2019
  • Employer, Synergy Scaffolding, were fined $2million under NSW laws on Friday
  • The court heard Synergy knew the scaffolding was nearly 30 times overweight
  • Christopher’s parents said the fine is ‘laughable’ and won’t deter the employer 

The heartbroken family of a teenage tradie killed at work said the $2million fine handed to his former employer is ‘laughable’.

Sydney company Synergy Scaffolding were handed NSW‘s biggest ever workplace health and safety fine on Friday for the death of 18-year-old apprentice Christopher Cassaniti in April, 2019.

Christopher had skipped his lunch break and was working alongside his colleague Khaled Wehbe, 39, when 30m of scaffolding above them collapsed.

Footage shows workers at the site immediately ran to where the men were crushed and began struggling to clear the rubble off them while others screamed at police to ‘f***ing do something’.

Christopher Cassaniti (above) was crushed to death in April, 2019, after 30m of collapsed above him

Christopher Cassaniti (above) was crushed to death in April, 2019, after 30m of collapsed above him

Mr Wehbe was severely injured in the horrific collapse but held onto Christopher’s hand and listened as he called for help and asked for his mum.

Just 20 minutes later, he watched the 18-year-old die. 

Synergy Scaffolding pleaded guilty to a Category One offence offence under NSW’s workplace safety laws in July after it was found the scaffolding above Christopher and Mr Wehbe was ‘grossly overloaded’.

The structure was holding 17,905kg but was only designed to hold 675kg, meaning it was nearly 30 times heavier than it’s maximum capacity.

Christopher’s heartbroken parents, Rob and Patrizia, said the $2million fine was ‘laughable’ in comparison to their loss.

‘It’s not a deterrent for any company – $2million dollars for a big builder is nothing,’ Mrs Cassaniti said.

Christopher's heartbroken parents, Rob and Patrizia, said the $2million fine handed down to Christopher's former employer would do little to deter them (pictured, Mr and Mrs Cassaniti with the teddybear containing Christopher's ashes on Friday)

Christopher’s heartbroken parents, Rob and Patrizia, said the $2million fine handed down to Christopher’s former employer would do little to deter them (pictured, Mr and Mrs Cassaniti with the teddybear containing Christopher’s ashes on Friday)

The Cassanitis have been outspoken advocates for workplace safety and frequently attend seminars with a teddybear containing their son's ashes (pictured, Mr Cassaniti with the bear)

The Cassanitis have been outspoken advocates for workplace safety and frequently attend seminars with a teddybear containing their son’s ashes (pictured, Mr Cassaniti with the bear)

‘For us, going on every single day, it’s like waking up and dealing with it every single day.

‘When Christopher got his job, we were so proud of him, and then to turn 18.

‘He was so excited to have just hit his new milestone. To only live for days into that life milestone is just heartbreaking, because of somebody’s complacent decision.’

The maximum penalty Synergy Scaffolding faced under NSW workplace safety laws was $3million.

The Cassanitis have been outspoken advocates for workers rights since their son’s tragic death.

They regularly visit workplace health and safety seminars, armed with a tradie teddy bear containing Christopher’s ashes and the clothing he was wearing that day.

Mr and Mrs Cassaniti have called for NSW to introduce industrial manslaughter laws that would allow individuals to be prosecuted for workplace deaths and increase maximum penalties.

Footage of the collapse show site workers ran over to try and lift the rubble off Christopher and his colleague Khaled Wehbe (pictured, the scene of the collapse)

Footage of the collapse show site workers ran over to try and lift the rubble off Christopher and his colleague Khaled Wehbe (pictured, the scene of the collapse)

Christopher (above) had turned 18 just days before the collapse of the scaffolding which his employer, Synergy Scaffolding, knew was 'grossly overweight' a month before his death

Christopher (above) had turned 18 just days before the collapse of the scaffolding which his employer, Synergy Scaffolding, knew was ‘grossly overweight’ a month before his death

They said their son – who celebrated his 18th birthday just days before his death – was a hardworking, kind and gentle young man.

NSW District Court Judge Andrew Scotting agreed, saying any employer would be lucky to have such an ‘eager to learn’ man.

‘This case should serve as a telling reminder that unsafe acts on a building site can and do lead to catastrophic consequences,’ Judge Scotting said on Friday.

‘The overloading of the scaffold, the lack of vertical bracing, the removal of the ties and the removal of the transoms made the likelihood of the risk occurring so high, that it was almost certain.’

Judge Scotting added the collapse was a result of a ‘culmination of events’ which put Synergy Scaffolding’s workers at risk of ‘significant peril’.

He also acknowledged Mr Wehbe is still suffering from the trauma of the collapse and the death of his colleague. 

Christopher's family take a teddybear containing his ashes and his work uniform from the day of the collapse (above) to workplace safety events

Christopher’s family take a teddybear containing his ashes and his work uniform from the day of the collapse (above) to workplace safety events

Synergy Scaffolding was fined $900,000 in 2020 after the court heard it knew unauthorised alterations were being made to its worksite scaffolds but did little to improve safety conditions.

Judge Scotting said at the time the steps the company did take were ‘simple and inexpensive’.

He also found Synergy Scaffolding also knew in March 2019, a month prior to Christopher’s death, that the scaffolding was ‘grossly overloaded’.  

The construction company was fined $2million after it was granted a 10 per cent penalty reduction for pleading guilty.

Source

Related posts