Union calls for tougher deterrents following Sydney Trains conviction

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday September 4, 2019


The Electrical Trades Union has questioned the NSW District Court’s sentence in relation to the death of a worker and has called for stronger workplace laws.

Sydney Trains has this week been convicted over the death of signal mechanic Charles Lagaaia, who was struck by a train while working at Clyde in 2016. The company was also charged for exposing six other workers to risk of serious injury or death.

While the union welcomed the conviction, it has argued the $525,000 fine was “inadequate”.

ETU assistant secretary Ben Lister said the fine did not reflect the severity of the offences.

“Today’s judgement makes clear that Sydney Trains bears full criminal responsibility for the death of Charles Lagaaia,” he said.

“The judgement is damning of Sydney Trains and its management who were found to have known that workers were at obvious, identifiable and foreseeable risk of being struck by a train and killed.

“The judgement notes that the company failed to follow its own safety procedures or take simple remedial steps that would have eliminated risks.

“While substantial, the combined $525,000 in fines handed down today are inadequate and do not fully reflect the seriousness of the offences or the impact they had.

District Court Judge David Russell told the court that the risks were “foreseeable” and avoidable.

“Simple remedial steps were available which would have completely avoided the risk,” he said.

“The signals team should have been included in the work briefings, and they should have been informed which areas of the track were not protected from passing rail traffic.

“By its plea of guilty, Sydney Trains has acknowledged that it is criminally responsible for the death of Mr Lagaaia. It would be understandable if the family thinks that the fines imposed are inadequate. 

“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.”

A larger fine and industrial manslaughter laws would prevent companies from risking the lives of workers, according to Lister.

“No fine can ever bring back the life of Charles Lagaaia, however in my view a larger fine could have helped deter companies from endangering workers by failing to implement and adhere to required safety rules,” he said.

“It shouldn’t require a tragic death for Sydney Trains or any other employer to implement basic safety reforms.

“The ETU has long supported the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws as a genuine deterrent to any workplace fatality, and today’s sentence reaffirms the need for those reforms.”

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