Fine upped by $200k over concrete wall deaths
A FINE against a Brisbane construction company, over the deaths of two workers who were crushed by a concrete wall at a racecourse three years ago has been increased by $225,000. Ashley Morris, 34, and Humberto Leite, 55, died instantly when two concrete slabs fell over at an Eagle Farm Racecourse worksite during construction of a foul-water drainage tank.
A sewage pipe was used as makeshift bracing for 14-tonne concrete panels that formed the walls for a foul-water drainage tank.
In September last year, the company in charge of the site, Criscon Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to comply with health and safety regulations and was fined $405,000.
Criscon has since been wound up and a liquidator appointed.
A magistrate who fined the company said there was an obvious lack of bracing and no designated Criscon worker to identify that.
She said the lack of escape route was "worse than careless'' and there was no planning.
After an appeal, on the ground that the fine was inadequate and no conviction was recorded, District Court Judge Brad Farr on Friday ordered the fine be increased to $625,000.
Judge Farr said the fine imposed was so disproportionate to the seriousness of the offending conduct it would undermine public confidence in the court's ability to deter similar offending.
The judge said the fact that there were two separate, yet identical events, separated by six days, and two deaths, were distinguishing features of significance.
The nature of the work carried out was "so inherently and obviously dangerous'' that the failures of Criscon were "almost incomprehensible''.
"This is a matter where the risk for the unfortunate men in the pit was, in reality, only one of death, given the weight of the prefabricated concrete panels and the absence of an escape route.''
Judge Farr said Criscon's failure was "extraordinarily serious''.
Risks that should have been readily apparent on September 30, 2016, were not remedied after work was undertaken on that day.
"It was in this context that the risk of death, which should have been patently obvious to all concerned, was realised on 6 October, 2016,'' Judge Farr said.
He said the penalty was plainly inadequate, but he did not overturn the magistrate's decision not to record a conviction.
Judge Farr said that should not be taken as authority that in similar future matters convictions should not be recorded.