Jayden Zappelli, 18, was working as a trade assistant with JCW Electrical employee Dale Francis Mortley at a Bunbury home on February 8, 2013 when he was electrocuted. Picture: Facebook
Jayden Zappelli, 18, was working as a trade assistant with JCW Electrical employee Dale Francis Mortley at a Bunbury home on February 8, 2013 when he was electrocuted. Picture: Facebook

Disastrous mistake that killed teenage tradie

A GRIEVING father who lost his teenage son in a horrific workplace tragedy has called on employers to do more to protect young lives.

Jayden Zappelli, an 18-year-old trade assistant, died on February 8, 2013, while working at a home in Bunbury, Western Australia.

Jayden was working with JCW Electrical employee Dale Francis Mortley when he was electrocuted in a roof space. He had come into contact with a copper gas pipe while he was holding an exposed conductor on a cable.

Mr Mortley, a qualified electrician, had not switched off the home's mains power supply before work began.

Jayden Zappelli's father Greg Zappelli told news.com.au his son's death had devastated his close-knit family.

"Jayden lost his life, we've lost our son - it's like a pebble thrown in a pond, the ripples have affected so many people," he said.

"My father is 92 and it's affected him because he and Jayden were close, he's battled depression.

"I've got depression too; my wife has to try and run our business on her own because I just haven't got the headspace.

"There are lots of ways it affects you. It doesn't leave you alone or go away; it's something we'll carry for the rest of our lives."

Mr Zappelli said losing a child was every parent's greatest fear.

"No parent wants to ever lose a child. Nothing has ever tested me more than this," he said.

"Your children are a part of you, you carry them in your soul - they're the most important thing you'll ever have."

JCW Electrical was charged with failing to provide a safe working environment and was fined $38,000 in 2015 after pleading guilty, with the fee covered by the company's insurance.

Mr Mortley, who was charged with causing death or serious harm to a person and not taking reasonable care not to adversely affect the safety or health of a person, also pleaded guilty and was penalised $6800.

Mr Zappelli said the fines were "disappointing".

"In Jayden's case, the only reason he lost his life was because someone did the wrong thing," he said.

"He was an 18-year-old kid, he had to rely on someone else to make decisions for him and someone made the wrong decision, and he lost his life.

"They rolled the dice. If you are driving a car and you choose to go through a red light and you kill somebody, you are going to be in trouble, aren't you?"

Jayden Zappelli pictured with mum Tamra and sister Danielle.
Jayden Zappelli pictured with mum Tamra and sister Danielle.

Mr Zappelli said the maximum fine for the business owner was $200,000 and $20,000 for Mr Mortley, but that both had received "discounts" for entering an early guilty plea - an outcome the WA father said had left a "bitter taste" in his mouth.

"I think a lot of employers treat their workers just as workers - but what would you want for your own children if they were to go out to work on a site?" Mr Zappelli said.

"These workers are loved by somebody; they have the right to go to work and not lose their life early - they have the right to have a fruitful and prosperous life.

"My message [to other business owners] is just don't take the risk. Look after the people making you money. Don't roll the dice with your employees because it's just not worth it."

Mr Zappelli said there were laws and codes of practice in place to protect workers, but that no follow-up checks were made by officials to ensure safety procedures were actually being followed on sites.

He called for tougher regulation and accountability for business owners, and welcomed the March 26 announcement of a new senate inquiry into workplace health and safety.

He also said business owners should have to prove they have adequate safety measures in place to protect employees before they were allowed to set up trade.

Mr Zappelli, who described his son as "cheeky, fun loving, responsible, loyal and protective" in his emotional victim impact statement, said Jayden had sometimes worked for "pocket money" in the family's own business.

"I can honestly say in 24 years in the business, Jayden was one of the best workers I ever had," he said.

"He was very switched on, he knew how to pull himself out of a situation, he had common sense.

"I never really had any fear for him because he had shown so much maturity. But things weren't there in place [at JCW Electrical], and he only did what he was told to do."

Mr Zappelli said he would welcome the opportunity to meet with Mr Mortley in person.

"The young guy would be doing it tough I'd imagine. He's feeling that responsibility probably … he made a mistake, an error of judgment, but somebody should come to me and own it, take responsibility for it," he said.

"I taught my kids that if you do something wrong, you have to step up to the plate and own it because it's good for yourself and the people you've done wrong to."

According to Safe Work Australia, 40 Australians have already been killed at work in 2018.

Eight of those deaths occurred in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries, nine in construction and 16 in transport, postal and warehousing.

Two mining workers have been killed, along with one in manufacturing, one in electricity, gas, water and waste services, one in rental, hiring and real estate services, one wholesale trade worker and one administrative and support services worker.

Last month, news.com.au also spoke with grieving NSW mum Kay Catanzariti, whose 21-year-old son Ben was killed in July 2012 by a falling concrete-pouring boom at a construction site in Canberra, and Queensland father Michael Garrels, whose son Jason was electrocuted at a building site in February 2012.

Both Mr Garrels and Mrs Catanzariti have also been tirelessly campaigning for the senate inquiry, which will report on a range of occupational health and safety matters by the end of September.

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