A swing stage scaffold set- up was supplied and installed by the defendant to a multi-unit high-rise complex being constructed at Broadbeach.
On 21 June 2008, a scaffold on a swing stage detached and fell 26 floors from the high-rise complex. Two workers in the swing stage also fell and died on impact.
Swing stages are suspended work platforms (cradles) raised and lowered via cables, along the exterior of a building. The cradle is supported by rigging made up of two needles that extend past the exterior wall of the building to which cables are attached for the raising and lowering of the platform. The stage is operated by workers within the cradle platform.
Two workers were undertaking concrete patching and repairing the exterior wall of the high-rise complex from the swing stage. One of the needles had been installed incorrectly and failed. The swing stage rigging initially detached from the stage, leaving the workers hanging vertically, swinging in a pendulum motion. The workers were still attached to the cradle platform by their safety harnesses. The combined weight of the workers and the cradle platform pulled out the remaining support needle causing the platform and rigging components to detach and fall 26 floors. The two workers in the swing stage fell with it and died on impact when they hit the concrete floor.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court, with a decision handed down on 27 February 2015, to breaching the obligation it held under s.33 as an erector/installer of plant, and was sentenced.
Magistrate Mr Brian Kilmartin fined the defendant $700 000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $2923.20. A conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the magistrate noted that the defendant exhibited disregard to engineering instructions relating to how the swing stage rigging was to be erected and failed to comply with relevant Australian Standards. The securing couplers, required to attach the rigging to a weight box that prevents the swing stage from detaching were not attached. Magistrate Kilmartin said erecting the plant was done in a manner displaying gross negligence and foolishness.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Brian Kilmartin took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered a plea of guilty. Magistrate Kilmartin noted that there were few comparatives to assist in sentencing, however he noted a co-obligation holder had received a fine of $600 000 and he considered that the defendants breach was more serious.
Considerations for prevention
(Commentary under this heading is not part of the Court's decision)
Where there is exposure to risks from falls from heights, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures.
Control measures are required where there is a risk of a fall of at least:
- three metres in housing construction work
- two metres in other construction work.
Obligation holders must consider engineering instructions and Australian Standards relating to how swing stage rigging should be erected.
- E80250 - C1
- Date of offence:
- Double fatality
- Beenleigh Magistrates Court
- Mr Brian Kilmartin
- s.33 and s.24(1) Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 (Repealed)
- Decision date:
- $ 700 000
- Maximum Penalty:
- $ 750 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number:
- E80250 - C1