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Sydney scaffolding company fined $2 million for tradie death

The heartbroken family of a teen Tradition who died at work said the $2 million fine handed to his former employer is “ridiculous.”

Synergy Scaffolding, a Sydney company, on Friday was handed NSW’s largest-ever workplace health and safety fine for the April 2019 death of 18-year-old student Christopher Cassaniti.

Christopher had skipped his lunch break and was working with his colleague Khaled Wehbe, 39, when 100 feet of scaffolding collapsed above them.

Footage shows workers at the site immediately running to the spot where the men were crushed and began struggling to clear the debris from them, while others shouted at police to “do something goddamn.”

Christopher Cassaniti (above) was crushed to death in April 2019 after collapsing 100 feet above him

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

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

Synergy Scaffolding pleaded guilty to a Category 1 offense under NSW workplace safety laws in July after the scaffolding above Christopher and Mr Wehbe was found to be ‘grossly overloaded’.

The structure had a load capacity of 17,905 kg, but was only designed to support 675 kg, meaning it was almost 30 times heavier than its maximum capacity.

Christopher’s heartbroken parents, Rob and Patrizia, said the $2 million fine was “laughable” compared to their loss.

“It’s not a deterrent for any company — $2 million dollars for a major builder is nothing,” Ms. Cassaniti said.

Christopher's heartbroken parents, Rob and Patrizia, said the $2 million fine imposed on Christopher's former employer would give them little deter (pictured, Mr. and Mrs. Cassaniti with the teddy bear containing Christopher's ashes on Friday)

Christopher's heartbroken parents, Rob and Patrizia, said the $2 million fine imposed on Christopher's former employer would give them little deter (pictured, Mr. and Mrs. Cassaniti with the teddy bear containing Christopher's ashes on Friday)

Christopher’s heartbroken parents, Rob and Patrizia, said the $2 million fine imposed on Christopher’s former employer would give them little deter (pictured, Mr. and Mrs. Cassaniti with the teddy bear containing Christopher’s ashes on Friday)

The Cassanitis are outspoken advocates for workplace safety and regularly attend seminars with a teddy bear containing their son's ashes (pictured, Mr. Cassaniti with the bear)

The Cassanitis are outspoken advocates for workplace safety and regularly attend seminars with a teddy bear containing their son's ashes (pictured, Mr. Cassaniti with the bear)

The Cassanitis are outspoken advocates for workplace safety and regularly attend seminars with a teddy bear containing their son’s ashes (pictured, Mr. Cassaniti with the bear)

“For us, going every day is like waking up and having to deal with it every day.

“When Christopher got his job, we were so proud of him, and when he turned 18.

“He was so excited that he had just reached his new milestone. To live in that life milestone for only days is just heartbreaking, because of someone’s complacent decision.”

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

The Cassanitis have been outspoken workers’ rights advocates since the tragic death of their son.

They regularly attend occupational health and safety seminars, armed with a traditional teddy bear containing Christopher’s ashes and the clothes he wore that day.

Mr and Mrs Cassaniti have called on NSW to introduce industrial manslaughter laws that would allow individuals to be prosecuted for deaths at work and increase maximum sentences.

Footage of the collapse shows construction workers rushing to try and lift the rubble from Christopher and his colleague Khaled Wehbe (pictured, the site of the collapse)

Footage of the collapse shows construction workers rushing to try and lift the rubble from Christopher and his colleague Khaled Wehbe (pictured, the site of the collapse)

Footage of the collapse shows construction workers rushing to try and lift the rubble from Christopher and his colleague Khaled Wehbe (pictured, the site of the collapse)

Christopher (above) had turned 18 just days before the scaffolding collapse that his employer, Synergy Scaffolding, knew a month before his death was “severely overweight”

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

NSW District Court Judge Andrew Scotting agreed, saying any employer should be happy to have such a “studious” man.

“This case should serve as a telling reminder that unsafe acts on a construction site can and will have catastrophic consequences,” Judge Scotting said Friday.

‘Because of the overloading of the jetty, the lack of vertical braces, the removal of the anchors and the removal of the sleepers, the chance that the risk occurred was so great that it was almost certain.’

Judge Scotting added that the collapse was the result of a “climax of events” that put Synergy Scaffolding’s employees at risk of “significant danger.”

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

Christopher's family takes a teddy bear with his ashes and his work uniform to workplace safety events from the day of the collapse (above)

Christopher's family takes a teddy bear with his ashes and his work uniform to workplace safety events from the day of the collapse (above)

Christopher’s family takes a teddy bear with his ashes and his work uniform to workplace safety events from the day of the collapse (above)

Synergy Scaffolding was fined $900,000 in 2020 after the court heard it knew unauthorized changes were being made to the scaffolding at the construction site but did little to improve safety conditions.

Judge Scotting said at the time that the steps the company took were “simple and cheap.”

He also found that Synergy Scaffolding also knew in March 2019, a month before Christopher’s death, that the jetty was “grossly overloaded.”

The construction company was fined $2 million after receiving a 10 percent reduced sentence for pleading guilty.

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