A fatal scaffolding collapse at Macquarie Park has prompted calls for better safety. (ABC News)
The NSW workplace safety watchdog issued over 100 notices for breaches of scaffold safety rules during a crackdown last year, months before the death of an 18-year-old apprentice at a Sydney construction site.
- The death of Christopher Cassaniti at a construction site on Monday sparked calls for greater safety measures
- SafeWork NSW observed “widespread non-compliance” to scaffolding rules during a year-long crackdown
- The State Government said it would take action if an investigation found more could be done to keep workers safe
But despite SafeWork NSW flagging “widespread non-compliance” to scaffolding guidelines as an existing issue, figures show it wasn’t the subject of the most notices — accounting for under 10 per cent of the total handed out.
Christopher Cassaniti, 18, was killed after he became buried under a pile of steel when a 15-metre scaffolding tower gave way at a Macquarie Park site on Monday.
His father, Robert, has issued an emotional plea for the State Government to take “immediate action” in the form of “stringent measures regarding safety on construction sites”.
“While nothing can bring our son back, we don’t want his death to be just another statistic,” he said.
The SafeWork NSW crackdown began in November 2017, after a rise in the number of falls from heights being reported.
Inspectors issued 1,258 breach notices and the majority were relating to fall risks.
There were over 100 scaffolding-related notices issued.
The results of a SafeWork NSW safety blitz in the 12 months from November 2017.
Young workers yesterday claimed they were regularly told to do things that breached safety guidelines, citing the risk of losing their job as a major reason why unsafe practices went unreported.
How scaffolding is deemed ‘compliant’
For scaffolding to be deemed safe and compliant, inspectors consider what is reasonably practicable at the stage the project has reached.
This includes the base plates being positioned on a flat and sound surface, the deck being aligned to the slab height or within 300mm of it, and a requirement for all working decks to have mid and top handrails.
A chain wire and containment netting is also required to prevent falling objects.
When SafeWork NSW launched the blitz, on-the-spot fines of up to $3,600 were introduced — and $265,000 worth of fines were handed out during the 12-month period.
Over 1,000 constructions sites were visited.
The State Opposition has echoed calls for greater protection for workers.
Labor’s planning spokeswoman, Tania Mihailuk, said she had written to incoming Planning Minister Rob Stokes to ask what steps would be taken to reassure the community worksites were safe.
Christopher Cassaniti’s family described him as a gentle, kind and hardworking young man who was “full of life and love for his family”.
“We will miss him dearly,” Robert Cassaniti said.
“One death is too many.”
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her heart went out to the young apprentice’s family and friends.
“SafeWork NSW is carrying out a full investigation into the incident and a report will be prepared for the coroner,” she said in a statement.
“If it is found there is more the Government can do to keep people safe on work sites we will of course take action.”
On Monday, SafeWork began another operation targeting scaffolding “to ensure businesses understand the safety requirements involved in creating a safe environment for workers using scaffolding and working from a height”.
The company responsible for the scaffolding at the Macquarie Park site, Synergy Scaffolding Services, said it was cooperating fully with authorities.
“Synergy Scaffolding Services considers the safety, wellbeing and welfare of workers and the broader community as paramount,” it said in a statement.
“We adhere to all safety regulations, ensure all staff are suitably qualified and undergo specific training and inductions.”