Qld company fined $405k for worker deaths
Loved ones of a construction worker crushed to death by a concrete slab at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm Racecourse believe a company’s $405,000 fine for its role in the tragedy is too lenient.
Criscon pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to comply with health and safety duty over the deaths of Ashley Morris, 34, and his 55-year-old colleague Humberto Leite in October 2016.
The Queensland construction company faced a $3 million fine as the principal contractor when the pair were killed after becoming sandwiched between two slabs which fell in a domino effect.
Claudio D’Alessandro, the boss of subcontractor Construction Building Technologies, has been charged with manslaughter for alleged gross negligence.
His matter is yet to be determined by a court.
Criscon paid “lip service” by failing to implement aspects of its health and safety plan, Brisbane magistrate Wendy Cull said when sentencing the company.
A sewage pipe was used as makeshift bracing for 14-tonne concrete panels that formed the walls for a foul-water drainage tank, the court heard on Tuesday.
Two workers acting as health and safety co-ordinators did not know they had been nominated for the roles.
Ms Cull labelled construction of the tank as “ad hoc”.
“This was not a technical oversight. There was an obvious lack of bracing and no designated Criscon worker to identify that,” Ms Cull said.
“The lack of escape route was worse than careless. There was no planning.
“Negligence on the part of D’Alessandro the subcontractor is alleged, and Criscon did nothing to identify this.”
Defence barrister Saul Holt QC argued D’Alessandro’s alleged breaches were far greater than Criscon’s.
The incident had devastated the company’s reputation, leaving it unable to gain tender for projects and its profits “effectively sunk to nil”, he said.
“It is doing everything it possibly can to win back the trust of the community,” Mr Holt said.
“That is so, notwithstanding the fact that the primary cause of these deaths was the grossly negligent conduct of a subcontractor.
“(D’Alessandro) failed to comply with even the basic requirements of the safe work methods he had provided.”
Outside court, Mr Morris’ defacto partner Louisa Wilson lamented having to explain the court proceedings to his two young children, while his father Keith said he was “not happy” with the punishment.
“We would have like to have seen probably a heftier punishment. We have to just cope with that,” Ms Wilson said.
D’Alessandro was arrested at Brisbane Airport days after the incident trying to board a flight out of Australia, before being granted bail.
His bail application heard Mr Morris had texted him before the incident to flag concerns that the panels didn’t properly fit on their bases in the pit.
It was also alleged the victims’ only means of escape was a steel ladder set against one of the slabs.
D’Alessandro’s matter will next be heard in Brisbane Magistrates Court for committal on September 24.