9 June 2022

Wife of carpenter who died from six-metre fall at Denman Prospect worksite tells court, 'I still wear his ring'

| Albert McKnight
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Law Court

Better Building Holdings pleaded guilty to the worksite death of Thomas Magi in 2020. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The wife of a carpenter who died after falling six metres at a west Canberra worksite described the loss she feels from losing her husband of 10 years when the sentencing for the company charged over his death began on Wednesday (8 June).

“I still wear his ring,” Yidi Zhou told the ACT Industrial Court.

She said she was a positive and happy person before her husband, 60-year-old Thomas Magi, died while working on the house at Denman Prospect on 4 February 2020. Afterwards, she became depressed and began taking double shifts as a nurse.

“I thought if I overwork and die, I won’t have to worry anymore and would join my husband,” she said.

“My husband and I worked so hard before the incident.”

Ms Zhou said her husband’s death had impacted her physical and mental health, including saying how her hair had turned grey from stress, and she worried about how she would explain what happened to their young son in the future.

She was in court for the sentencing of Better Building Holdings, which pleaded guilty to a charge laid over his death.

READ ALSO Family of employee killed at UC Hospital worksite say court process was ‘heart-breaking’

Tim Sharman, appearing for the company, said company director Ivan Juric was also in court and he read out a statement.

“We lost a friend that day under our watch and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to move past it or make sense of this horrible event,” it read.

Prosecutor Sofia Janackovic said the company had instructed Mr Magi and his apprentice to install timber guard rails on the second level of the house for edge protection and use a mobile scaffold to do so, which was “high-risk construction work”.

Court documents say the pair were on the second floor of the build on Temple Terrace carrying a floor panel when Mr Magi fell over an unprotected edge of the building, falling almost 6.5 metres onto concrete and suffering fatal injuries.

Ms Janackovic said the company did have a Work, Health and Safety Management System in place, but it was “merely words which were written on paper” and the offence was a “particularly grave” example of this type of offending.

She said the company failed to supervise its workers adequately, failed to provide enough information and training to them and failed to conduct a site inspection.

Also, it failed to complete a SafeWork method statement which would have identified how to mitigate the risk of falls from the second floor.

READ ALSO Multiplex fined $150,000 after death of employee at UC Hospital worksite

Mr Sharman said Better Building Holdings was a small, family company that worked in the Canberra region. He said Mr Magi had worked with Mr Juric’s father before working with him and had been a highly skilled tradesman who passed on his skills to his apprentices.

He urged Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker to consider how it happened during the 2019-2020 bushfires, which impacted everyone and disrupted building sites in Canberra, so “it wasn’t worksites as usual during that time”.

Also, he argued, “it is a long way from the worst-case scenario” and there had been extra-curial punishment for the company due to the publicity of the case and the impact that would have on its reputation.

Better Building Holdings pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to comply with a health and safety duty risking death or serious injury.

Chief Magistrate Walker will hand down her sentence today (9 June).

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