Sydney company 'warned of safety issues' before apprentice death
A 60 Minutes report has revealed concerns were raised about the safety of the Ganellen construction site in Macquarie Park more than a year before 18-year-old Christopher Cassaniti was killed after a scaffolding collapse.
Numerous emails obtained by 60 Minutes show repeated safety warnings were made by scaffolding company Synergy to construction company Ganellen.
To watch ‘Why?’ in full and for more on 60 Minutes, visit the official website.
Disturbingly, the emails point to safety breaches as early as January 2018 after the scaffolding was put up. Two emails warn people could die as a result.
“We do not want something happening because of removed components and someone not going home to their families,” one email reads.
As reporter Tara Brown revealed, Ganellen received this warning after the scaffolding was thought to be tampered with and deemed unsafe.
Other emails and photographs point to the overloading of the scaffolding with building materials, and the premature removal of ties which secure the scaffolding to the apartment block.
“This is putting lives at risk,” one reads.
“Can’t believe this is still happening. 1 (sic) year on.”
The emails also suggest people onsite witnessed “people pulling scaffolding apart” and the site in an “unsafe state”.
Despite the vast number of complaints, safety breaches continued to arise.
The leak of correspondence follows the April 2019 workplace death where a 17-metre-high scaffolding tower collapsed on 18-year-old apprentice Christopher Cassaniti and his 39-year-old colleague, Khald Wehbe.
While it may take years for the investigation to determine what caused Christopher’s death, it has prompted unions to call for the introduction of nationwide industrial manslaughter laws. These laws could see operators of any worksite where gross negligence results in death, face jail time.
Darren Greenfield, the New South Wales state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), says breaches like those revealed in the leaks most often occur with the growing pressure to save time and money.
“People shouldn’t die because of money,” Mr Greenfield told 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown.
“There’s no excuse for a worker on a construction site to pass away over money in a program. If something takes a little longer to build, so be it.”
As tragic as the scaffolding collapse was that killed Christopher Cassaniti and seriously injured Khaled Wehbe, union representative Darren Greenfield claims it could easily have been so much worse.
He told Tara Brown most workers were on their lunch break when the collapse occurred, potentially saving the lives of 32 people.
“(Christopher and Khaled) actually worked through lunch to finish some work off,” Mr Greenfield said.
“If it wasn’t lunchtime, we’d have probably 32 workers under that scaffold.”
60 Minutes went on to reveal three safety officers who worked on the Ganellen site in the lead up to the scaffolding incident have resigned.
Construction company Ganellen refused to be interviewed by 60 Minutes, but in a written statement described Christopher Cassaniti’s death as “an unimaginable tragedy for his family and friends and our deepest sympathies will always be with them”.
With a SafeWork investigation underway, the company said: “Out of respect for these processes, and more importantly the families involved, it is not appropriate to preempt the outcome of these investigations”.
The full statement from Ganellen can be found on the 60 Minutes website.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019