Mum’s plea after 18yo son crushed by scaffolding

The mother of an 18-year-old apprentice who was killed when a scaffold collapsed has called on the New South Wales state government to enforce workplace manslaughter laws to prevent another family from suffering the tragedy of losing their child in a horrific workplace accident.

In April 2019, Christopher Cassaniti died when an overloaded external facade – about 18 tonnes over its maximum load-bearing capacity – collapsed, trapping him and his colleague Khaled Wehbe on a construction site in Macquarie Park.

Connections that were supposed to connect the scaffolding to a corresponding building were also removed.

Now his mother Patrizia is calling on the state of New South Wales to follow the example of other mainland states and punish negligent homicide in the workplace as a separate criminal offense.

“I will never get justice for my son and that hurts. This is something that cannot be accepted, but I hope that families in the future will not have to go through this torment,” said Ms Cassaniti, describing her son as an “extraordinary and kind child”.

“I want these laws to act as a deterrent and stop people from doing the wrong thing and putting workers at risk of death.”

Their appeal comes as the government prepares to introduce the bill in Parliament this week.

The bill is expected to make workplace manslaughter a criminal offense punishable by up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $20 million – the highest fines of any jurisdiction.

Ms Cassaniti, who will speak alongside New South Wales Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis at a rally demanding the changes on Monday, says the new law would change lives.

“I want this law to put not only corporations and companies on alert, but also individuals,” she said.

“Managers, officials and workers should all be responsible for safety, and if they are found to have caused the death of a person through their negligence and reckless behavior, I want them to be prosecuted and sent to prison.”

“We need a clear and concise message so that when people look at this law, they stop unsafe work practices.”

According to a recent survey by Pyxis Polling & Insights, New South Wales voters overwhelmingly support the introduction of a workplace manslaughter offence, with 68 per cent of 2,040 respondents responding positively.

Support was higher in rural areas (70 percent) than among respondents in greater Sydney (66 percent), and across the political spectrum it was over 60 percent.

Although New South Wales is the only state, apart from Tasmania, where manslaughter at work is not a separate offence, 76 percent of respondents were surprised that there is no corresponding legislation in the state.

New South Wales Trade Union Secretary Mark Morey called on MPs from all political camps to “listen to the concerns of the people”.

“When a worker does not return home, it is a life-changing trauma for his or her loved ones,” he said.

“The people of NSW want companies and CEOs held accountable for workplace deaths.

“It is simply unacceptable that workers continue to lose their lives due to negligence and safety concerns. Laws against negligent homicide in the workplace will bring justice to victims and their families.”

According to the organisation’s analysis, between 2013 and 2022, NSW lost, on average, at least one worker every week in a fatal workplace accident – ​​more than any other Australian state or territory.

Following Mr. Cassaniti’s death, Synergy Scaffolding Services pleaded guilty to violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act and was fined $2 million in November 2022.

GN Residential Construction also pleaded guilty to a breach of the Act, resulting in NSW Fair Trading permanently revoking its building contractor licence in June 2023. The company was also convicted of the breach and fined $900,000.

Company director Nicholas Kodomichalo was also banned from practising for ten years under the Home Building Act 1989.

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