The defendant company held a duty under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a brick and block laying construction company.
It was engaged by a principal contractor to provide block laying work on a multi-unit construction site. The block laying was undertaken at a height of approximately 2 metres from temporary scaffolding consisting of 'A' frame trestles and planks set up on besser blocks. There was no edge protection in place to prevent workers from falling from the trestle and plank system. A safe work method statement (SWMS) prepared by the defendant company which included a component of the work involving working at height was not followed. The breach occurred when it failed to adequately implement a safe work at height safe work system.
Although there was no injury, workers had used the temporary scaffolding and were exposed to risk.
The defendant company pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on 23 November 2016 to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet its work health and safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate Hay fined the defendant $20 000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $5,000. The court was satisfied that as the defendant company had no previous convictions it was an appropriate exercise of its discretion not to record a conviction.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate stated that there is no suggestion of recklessness on the part of the defendant company and though the risk was obvious, the offence was not serious. Her Honour also noted that the work undertaken now by the defendant company had significantly reduced and it is of much smaller scale. At the time of the incident the defendant company was engaged in larger scale construction work on more significant construction sites with up to 20 workers or subcontractors engaged.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Hay acknowledged the company has no history of offences under the Act or its predecessor. It has no issues in its history in the Work Health and Safety Scheme, it fully co-operated with the investigation and entered a timely plea of guilty.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the construction industry where there is exposure to risks of death or injury to workers from a fall from height, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures.
Risk management involves identifying the hazards, evaluating the consequences and likelihood of harm that may result from the hazard, deciding and implementing control measures to prevent or minimise the level of the risk from the hazard and monitoring the effectiveness of the control measures to ensure they remain working correctly.
When deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of falls from height, obligation holders should consider:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- Managing the risk of falls at workplaces code of practice 2021 (PDF, 3.9 MB)
- Scaffolding Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.63 MB)
- Date of offence:
- Brisbane Magistrates Court
- Ms Penelope Hay
- s.32 of the duty under s.19 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $20 000
- Maximum Penalty:
- $1 500 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: