DEEP GRIEF: Ken Tapping and his wife Susan Smith hold a photograph of their son Lee Tapping, who was killed in a Grafton worksite accident in 2008. Photo: CFMEU.
DEEP GRIEF: Ken Tapping and his wife Susan Smith hold a photograph of their son Lee Tapping, who was killed in a Grafton worksite accident in 2008. Photo: CFMEU.

Final payout for Lee

SOME sense of closure has been offered to the family of a form worker who was killed while employed by a Coffs Harbour company.

Lee Tapping, 33, died after an accident on the worksite of the Grafton Shoppingworld redevelopment three years ago.

His employer, the Coffs Harbour construction company Suncoast Formwork Pty Ltd, and its director, Garry Watt, were this week fined a total of $137,500 in the NSW Industrial Court.

The successful WorkCover prosecution found the company failed to carry out “appropriate safety protocols that would most likely have prevented serious worksite injuries.”

Mr Tapping died after a 210kg concrete mould fell on him, striking him to the head and body on April 3, 2008.

He was rushed to the Grafton Base Hospital with fractures to the base of his skull, face, spine and ribs, swelling on his brain, significant damage to his spinal cord as well as internal lacerations to his left lung, and deep cuts to his right shoulder.

Due to the severity of his injuries, he was flown to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, but died the next day.

Since his death, the building union CFMEU has helped Mr Tapping’s parents, Susan Smith and Ken Tapping, through a campaign to access a death benefit.

The CFMEU stated that Suncoast Formwork had not registered Mr Tapping with the construction industry’s superannuation scheme, CBUS, despite being legally required to do so.

As a result the union said his family was initially denied a death benefit of $200,000.

“Even when approached to pay the benefit, Suncoast Formwork refused,” the union stated.

“This workplace tragedy was preventable, clearly Lee Tapping’s safety was put at risk for the sake of bigger profits,” CFMEU NSW State Secretary Mal Tulloch said.

The union’s Northern NSW organiser Jim Hutcheon said workers had complained about safety in the lead-up to Mr Tapping’s death, but these concerns were largely ignored.

In court it was said Suncoast Formwork had been contracted to build about 390 concrete columns in the shopping centre car park, designed to hold the weight of the ceiling.

The company and its director were charged with breaches of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000.

Suncoast was fined $125,000 and Mr Watt $12,500.

“It is critically important that all people involved in this work are provided with appropriate training and instruction and all parts of the construction are stable and secure at all times,” WorkCover NSW’s general manager of Work Health and Safety Division John Watson said.

“Unfortunately, these precautions were not followed in this instance and a man is now dead.”



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