In April this year as we all went into lockdown and we at WOW started the In The Spirit of Things Conversations I spoke with Patrizia Cassaniti about the tragic loss of her son, Christopher (18) in a fatal scaffolding collapse at a workplace construction site in Macquarie Park in April 2019 and her determination to improve safety within the construction industry.
A nine-story scaffolding tower collapsed on top of Christopher and a workmate. The young tradie killed by the scaffolding collapse screamed for 20 minutes, asking for help and crying out for his mother as he suffocated to death, a witness has said.
Patrizia and I spoke of the additional challenges of grieving during Covid, of the trauma that has impacted her family since the loss of Christopher, of the Law's deficiencies and of Patrizia in the numbness of overwhelming grief remembering the Chaplain who stayed by her side at the construction site.
60 Minutes also did a detailed story on the Safety issues at the construction site. You can watch that story here.
The 60 Minutes report 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.
I've followed this story since.
Yesterday Patrizia posted this on her Facebook Page:
"Tomorrow my husband Rob and I will be attending the Darlinghurst Courts for the sentencing of the builder Ganellan who pleaded guilty.
The prosecution handed down was for a Category 2 which we all know hands down should have been a Category 1... but it’s not in my control.. the only thing I can do is to provide my Victim Impact Statement as best as possible to avoid any further discounts to the charge that will be handed down.
What is a life worth??
I do not get a discount .. mine will always be a life sentence .. and the value of the penalty for my son’s life in the end, will always be the excess of the builders insurance policy.
It’s in God’s hands."
Insurance? What is Its Real Purpose?
The Insurance Sector more generally has much work to do and broader consultations with consumers and relevant stakeholder groups must become a priority in a roots and branches review of its purpose. A moral compass should also be applied to the whole sector and a clear public articulation of what insurance 2021 is there for, how it as a sector feels about supporting victims and what reforms they are working towards.
It is just not good enough that we hear of the appalling way injured workers are being treated within the Workers Compensation Scheme, of the travel insurance rorts named in the Royal Commission into Banking and Financial Misconduct and of the continued and sustained difficulties mental health claimants for example have in even accessing the sector.
Policies for 'molestation coverage' in some public liability policies adds yet another layer of acute pain for those who have been impacted by Abuse within the Church and Schools for example. The public would welcome a more compassionate sector, that doesn't 'sponsor' things but actively works with lived experience advocates to co-design and improve the systemic issues that beset it.
What Is a Life Worth At Work
Yesterday the NSW Labour Party announced that it would seek to introduce workplace deaths laws with multi-million dollar fines and decades of jail time on the cards for companies found responsible for workplace deaths.
Back to Patrizia: Today in the NSW District Court the builder, responsible for the workplace death pleaded guilty for breaching workplace safety laws.
The earlier 'In The Spirit of Things Conversation' with Patrizia this year talked about the Touched by Christopher Foundation and Patrizia's talks to workers 'Let’s Talk about Safety.'
She has been on a mission to make safety within workplaces accountable and reign in a law that has missed keeping up with the times to ensure employers are securing the safety of their workers and workers have the ability to speak up with confidence, without being victimised.
Patrizia has also started a foundation called Touched by Christopher which will help families financially within the week of the workplace incident to allow the grieving process to not be interrupted by the daunting thoughts of needing to pay bills including utility costs.