Man slams greed, deceit surrounding his son's death
AN ELECTRICAL contractor has been jailed over the tragic death of a young tradesman who was electrocuted on a Queensland building site rife with blatant safety breaches.
Electrician Nathan Brian Day, now 31, had been warned by Workplace Health and Safety officers to fix a number of potentially fatal electrical safety issues on a building site at Claremont, about 270km west of Mackay, in 2012.
On the same morning the site was due to be shut down by safety officers if the issues weren't rectified, 20-year-old trade's assistant Jason Garrels, who was just nine days into the job, was killed when his boss failed to turn off the power to the sub-board he was helping to install.
But in a telephone interview, Jason's father Michael Garrells said Day was not the only person deserving of punishment over Jason's death.
"From the start, Jason's death has been a demonstration of greed and deceit," he said.
He said examples included "the decision by government regulators to not turn off that fatal site before Jason's death and the reluctance of authorities to make sound decisions" and make an example of "dodgy operators like this person who has now been jailed."
Mr Garrells also blasted the attitude of one development company director, who Mr Garrells said had told investigators Jason's death was "all water under the bridge now."
He said these examples showed "the sanctity in which industry is revered well above any individual.
"These easily avoidable deaths will continue until all governments hold individuals as the most valuable and irreplaceable asset they have and act accordingly," he said.
"To those good individuals that have helped on Jason and our family's behalf, we sincerely thank you.\
"The industrial manslaughter laws (adopted unanimously in state parliament last year) will help.
"The stand-alone prosecutions unit will have the biggest effect," he said.
At yesterday's sentencing, prosecutor Todd Fuller said Day had failed on a number of fronts to protect his workers by not installing a safety switch at the site, not properly installing fuses, using sub-boards missing vital PVC protection components and failing to turn the power off.
"If any of those things had (been addressed) the death would have been avoided," Mr Fuller said.
Desperate attempts were made to revive the young man who was pronounced dead in front of his devastated parents in hospital.
Mr Fuller said Day had tried to cover up his role in the young man's death, immediately stripping the site's switchboard and later calling a fellow worker to discuss shifting the blame to Mr Garrels.
"He immediately made steps into a mode of covering up what has occurred," Mr Fuller said. "He did not have the competency or experience to do a project of that size."
Day pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Supreme Court to one charge of manslaughter and another of perjury which relates to him lying about the safety steps he took at the worksite during an inquest into Mr Garrels' death.
Justice Helen Bowskill said while she accepted Day was remorseful for his actions, that was tempered by his attempts to cover up his role in the death.
Justice Bowskill said it was clear "the grief is profound" for Mr Garrels' family who read out emotional victim impact statements in court.
"That death was a direct result of your failings," she said "Had the fuses been operative or the safety switch installed, the current would have been stopped almost instantaneously preventing this death.
"You made a choice to take on work that you were plainly not competent or sufficiently skilled to do ... placing numerous people at risk."
She said Day had called another worker the day after the death suggesting the pair tell investigators Mr Garrels "had taken it upon himself to assist" in a bid to shift the blame to the young man.
Justice Bowskill sentenced Day to seven years in jail for the manslaughter offence and two years for perjury, both to be served concurrently.
He will be eligible for parole on March 9, 2020.