The defendant worked in a business that erected and installed scaffolding. Swing stage scaffolding was erected and installed to a high-rise multi-unit complex being constructed at Broadbeach.
On 21 June 2008, the swing stage scaffold detached and fell 26 floors to the ground.
Swing stages are a suspended work platform (cradle) raised and lowered via cables, along the exterior of a building. The cradle is supported by rigging, comprising two needles extending 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 from within the cradle.
Two workers were tasked with concrete patching and repairing the exterior wall of the high-rise complex from the swing stage. One of the needles was installed incorrectly and failed. The swing stage rigging detached from the stage, leaving the workers hanging vertically, swinging in a pendulum motion, still attached to the cradle platform by their safety harnesses. The combined weight pulled out the other support needle, its platform and the rigging components became detached and fell 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Court, with a decision being handed down on 27 February 2015, to breaching the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 (repealed), having failed to meet his work health and safety obligation and was sentenced.
Magistrate Kilmartin imposed a 12 month term of imprisonment, wholly suspended for an operational period of three years, during which time the defendant must not commit another offence punishable by imprisonment. 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. The defendant also failed to follow relevant Australian Standards. The workers did not attach the required securing couplers to a weight box which prevents the swing stage from detaching. Magistrate Kilmartin said that erecting the plant was done in a manner displaying gross negligence and foolishness.
In deciding a penalty, Magistrate 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. He observed that the gravity of the breach was at the highest end, that his actions, in departing from the stage erection instructions and relevant standards resulted in two family men being killed. He stated the court would be failing in its duty if he did not impose a term of imprisonment. He further stated that if the defendant had followed proper engineering instructions the incident would not have occurred.
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 - I
- Date of offence:
- Double fatality
- Beenleigh Magistrates court
- Mr Brian Kilmartin
- s. 167 of the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 (repealed)
- Decision date:
- 12 month imprisonment, wholly suspended for a period of three years
- Maximum Penalty:
- $150 000 or three years imprisonment
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number:
- E80250 - I