Sydney Trains conviction over worker death welcome, but fine inadequate

The Electrical Trades Union has welcomed the conviction of Sydney Trains on two criminal charges related to the death of signal mechanic Charles Lagaaia, who was struck by a train while working at Clyde in June 2016.

However, the union has questioned the adequacy of the NSW District Court’s sentence, saying the $525,000 fine did not reflect the seriousness or impact of the offences.
“The ETU extends our sincere condolences on behalf of all our members to Mr Lagaaia’s extended family and friends,” ETU assistant secretary Ben Lister said.
“Today’s judgement makes clear that Sydney Trains bears full criminal responsibility for the death of Charles Lagaaia.
“The company was also convicted of exposing six other workers to risk of serious injury or death.
“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.
In his judgment, Justice David Russell stated that: “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. No-one should have to suffer such grief and loss. 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.”
Mr Lister said that the union believed that a larger fine would have provided a greater deterrence against companies endangering workers by failing to implement and adhere to required safety rules.
“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.
“Every workplace death leaves a circle of lasting devastation among families, friends and colleagues. A court judgment does not heal that suffering.
“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.”
A copy of the judgment is available at:
/Public Release.