Sydney Trains ‘Criminally Responsible’ for Worker’s Death

The NSW District Court has fined Sydney trains $525,000 in the aftermath of a worker’s death more than three years ago, according to court documents.

Charles Lagaaia, who was working as a signal mechanic at the time of the incident, June 18, 2016 was killed by a train. The court found that while safety measures were in place on other parts of the nearby tracks, but not where Mr Lagaaia was working.

According to court documents, Sydney Trains failed to provide an adequate worksite briefing and induction, the worksite supervisor’s verification of worksite pre-work briefing was not undertaken and there was no diagram or map of the onsite protection arrangements for workers. Sydney Trains also told the court that six additional workers had been working on the track for an hour and forty-minutes without any formal or recognised means of track protection in place for its workers.

David Russel, NSW District Court judge said that Sydney Trains “has acknowledged it is criminally responsible,” for the workplace fatality, and pleaded guilty to two category two failures to comply with its safety duty.

“Mr Lagaaia died as a result of the failure of the offender,” the Judge said. “Employees of the offender were placed at risk or death or serious injury. The risk of a worker being struck by a train and being killed was obvious, identifiable and foreseeable,” David Russel said, adding that Sydney Trains was aware of the fact that “the likelihood of the risk coming home was quite high.”

“The offender had a safety management system in place, but there was no explanation why it was not followed.”

“Simple remedial steps were available which would have completely avoided the risk… The offender had a safety management system in place, but there was no explanation why it was not followed,” the judge told the court.

Sydney Trains was fined $375,000 for the death of Mr Lagaaia, and an additional $150,000 for the six workers who were potentially at risk of an accident. The maximum fine applicable for Sydney Trains stood at $1.5 million for each charge.

“No once should have to suffer such grief and loss,” judge Russel continued. “It is to be hoped that the significant improvements in rail safety made by Sydney Trains as a result of this incident will mean that no family is ever put through that trauma again.”

Sydney Trains’ chief executive Howard Collins has issued a statement responding to the court case, saying that his organisation fully accepts the court’s ruling. “Charles Lagaaia was a much-loved Sydney Trains maintenance worker… Sydney Trains deeply regrets his tragic death while working on the rail corridor near Clyde.”

Mr Collins confirmed that the agency has implemented “a number of significant safety actions,” and has pledged to invest an additional $20 million on protection officers who will work to better enforce the safety management system that has already been implemented.

Ben Lister, assistance secretary of the Electrical Trades Union has said that “a larger fine could have helped to deter companies from endangering workers.”

“It shouldn’t require a tragic death for Sydney Trains or any other employer to implement basic safety reforms,” he said. “Every workplace death leaves a circle of lasting devastation among families, friends and colleagues. A court judgement does not heal that suffering.”

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