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$150,000 fine after fall leaves worker a paraplegic

A workplace incident in which a maintenance worker fell six metres and was left paraplegic has resulted in a $150,000 fine for the height safety company involved.

The company, which pleaded guilty recently in the Wynnum Magistrates Court to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, installed, maintained and inspected working at height fall arrest anchorage systems.

The defendant company was at an aged care facility performing its annual inspection of anchorage systems, agreeing to provide refresher training on the hook-up procedure for the static line system to a maintenance worker employed by the facility. Two people accessed a building roof six metres high via a ladder brought by the defendant - the ladder was 75 cm too short to allow safe access (one metre past the roof line and 1:4 pitch angle) to the roof and had not been secured at the top or bottom.

The maintenance worker fell and sustained serious head and spinal injuries resulting in permanent paraplegia. There was no risk assessment conducted nor safe work method statement prepared with regard to the work at height.

In reaching a decision, which included that no conviction be recorded, the magistrate stated the offence was a matter where neither person should have been on the roof as the ladder was inadequate. He said there was a failure of safe work systems - a systemic failure resulting in a life-changing event for the injured worker.

The magistrate noted that the breach was serious, but said the defendant was not being punished for the injury, rather than for the failures of duty. The company had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, was a good corporate citizen, and co-operated with the investigation, including participating in a record of interview and entering a very early plea of guilty.

A claim that the worker held some responsibility by accessing the roof for training because, in doing so, he disobeyed a work instruction from his own employer not to work at height, was rejected.

Further information

For more information on safe work at heights and industrial prosecutions, visit worksafe.qld.gov.au.

Last updated
18 December 2017

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