Principal contractor fined $405K for Eagle Farm Racecourse workplace deaths

The first of several verdicts in relation to the highly publicised workplace tragedy at Eagle Farm Racecourse has been handed down with the principal contractor, Criscon Pty Ltd (Criscon), pleading guilty and being fined $405,000 for two category 2 offences under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld).

On 6 October 2016, two workers were crushed to death by two 14-tonne precast concrete panels during the construction of a foul water drainage tank at the Eagle Farm Racecourse, when the panels toppled into the tank pit.

The foul water drainage tank that was being constructed at the time was the second tank constructed by the subcontractor as part of the works, with the construction of both involving:

  • the use of a sewage pipe as a makeshift brace for the precast concrete panels; and
  • a ladder positioned against one of the slabs as the only escape route located inside the pit.

As part of the investigation, it was also identified that two workers designated as health and safety co-ordinators were not aware of their nominated roles.

As the principal contractor, Criscon was responsible for overall safety and management of the site, and after initially being charged with two counts of a category 1 offence (reckless conduct), Criscon pleaded guilty to two counts of the lesser category 2 offence (failing to comply with a health and safety duty).

In sentencing Criscon, the Magistrate found that despite a safe work method statement (SWMS) being prepared by Criscon in relation to the works (as required as the principal contractor):

  • the SWMS was not appropriate for the nature of the work; and
  • in any event, the SWMS was not being followed by the subcontractor.

In an attempt to minimise the fine imposed, Criscon pleaded with the Magistrate that the incident had devastated Criscon’s reputation, leaving it unable to successfully tender for projects, with its profits “effectively sunk to nil”.

Criscon was fined $540,000, which was reduced to $405,000 for the early guilty plea, plus costs, with Criscon’s site manager and director still facing separate charges regarding individual breaches of their duties as officers.

The manager of the subcontractor, Claudio D’Alessandro (who was infamously arrested at Brisbane airport attempting to embark on a “spur-of-the-moment” trip to the Philippines), is facing separate criminal manslaughter charges in relation to the fatalities and a separate charge of reckless conduct in relation to the construction of the first foul water tank.

This decision is a stark reminder that principal contractors must not only set up appropriate safety procedures (SWMS etc.) but must also ensure those procedures are being complied with by the subcontractors and lower-tier subcontractors.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader’s specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.

Key contacts:

Stephen Pyman – Director | Principal
Jay Hatten – Senior Associate


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