‘My husband died and no one cares’
BRAZIL-BORN Iremar Da Silva was the life of any party, and he loved nothing more than playing soccer and having a beer and a barbecue with his mates.
But these days, his family home has fallen unbearably silent after the 55-year-old was killed in a workplace accident on October 25, 2016 - the same day as the Dreamworld catastrophe.
While that tragedy received an outpouring of media coverage and public sympathy, Mr Da Silva's death barely registered.
But his grieving widow Linda Moussa told news.com.au workplace deaths were all too common - and that current laws were working in favour of big companies instead of everyday Aussies.
Mr Da Silva, a formwork foreman, died after falling 3m onto steel reinforcing starter bars on a construction site in Ryde, Sydney.
He was one of 187 Australian workers killed on the job in 2016 - followed by 190 in 2017, and 115 in 2018 so far.
Ms Moussa said at the moment the consequences for workplace deaths aren't harsh enough to be a proper deterrent.
"There was no inquest for my husband. He died on the same day those other unfortunate people died at Dreamworld and we heard so much about that, and I feel very sorry for them - but my husband died at work, and no one cares," she said.
"It feels like it's not important; it's just another death at work.
"If you're walking into a construction site today, is it safe? Don't trust that your company is looking after you - you look after yourself, and if it's not safe, walk away.
"At the moment the laws are against you; they're not working for you. At the moment, in NSW at least, companies have all the power."
Ms Moussa said when an employee died on the job, companies could often apply for an enforceable undertaking - a legally binding agreement between it and SafeWork NSW which requires them to make specific changes, such as improving safety - as an alternative to prosecution.
She said companies which plead guilty to negligence can often negotiate their penalty - and she said in many cases, the company's insurance will cover the fine.
"For them it's an inconvenience - what they encounter is not major," Ms Moussa said.
"This is happening all over Australia. It's very easy for companies to negotiate their way out of it.
"It's just so easy for them to actually walk away with a reasonable deal."
Ms Moussa said her husband's death - and the subsequent investigation - had taken its toll on her and her son Johann, who lost his beloved dad at 18 in the middle of his HSC exams.
"The process has been very long - more than two years - and it destroys you. It's a very long time to be constantly on edge," she said.
"Iremar was 55 years old when he died and he was known for his sense of humour. He was a funny guy. He was the extrovert.
"He loved life and was very Brazilian - he loved his soccer, and sometimes I would come home and Iremar would have invited half a dozen people over.
"He got along with everyone and loved having a beer and a laugh with people. He was very easygoing. I'm much more of an introvert so he balanced me. He was the one bringing life to the house. The house is very quiet now and very lonely."
Ms Moussa was one of many Australians who have lost loved ones at work who shared their story for the Senate report, "The Prevention, Investigation and Prosecution of Industrial Deaths within Australia", which was tabled in October.
The report is set to provide recommendations on workplace safety in 2019.
NSW general manager of Shine Lawyers James Chrara agreed that current penalties were not harsh enough to act as a deterrent for companies and directors.
"In my view, no death in a workplace is acceptable," he said.
"A lot of directors take workplace health and safety very seriously, but not everyone operates in that way.
"There should be an adequate and reflective deterrent … it should be a percentage of gross revenue rather than a flat fee," he said, adding current fines were often a "drop in the ocean" for companies, meaning any deterrent was "null and void".
He explained that many workplace deaths were handled by civil cases which resulted in fines as the burden of proof was far lower.
For a director to be jailed over a workplace death, it would have to be a criminal case with a far higher burden of proof, and it would have to be proven the individual had "full knowledge" a situation could result in death.
Mr Da Silva's company was contracted to Sapform who, in turn, was contracted to Truslan when the tragedy occurred.
Truslan is now awaiting sentencing, which is due to be handed down in late March.