The defendant company held duties under s.19 (1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being the principal contractor and developer of an over 50's residential retirement village. The development consisted of the staged construction of over 190 single storey residences together with a master planned leisure centre incorporating gymnasium, pool, bars, lounge, library and cinema.
On the 3 July 2015 two apprentice carpenters, aged 18 and 19 years, were on the roof of a partially constructed residence sheeting soffits. One of the apprentices fell from the roof while trying to rescue a circular saw at risk of falling itself. He struck a concrete wall before landing on the ground. The fall from height was 3.98 metres. There was no edge protection or fall prevention control in place.
The worker sustained concussion, cuts, abrasions and a laceration to his scalp. He was off work for 5 days but returned to his apprenticeship (elsewhere) and has no residual impairment.
The investigation identified there was no site induction of the injured apprentice nor any work at heights training for either worker. The host employer admitted the apprentices had worked at height previously at the site. Edge protection was installed previously but was removed several weeks earlier.
On 13 September 2017, the defendant pleaded guilty in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court 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.
Acting Magistrate Walker fined the defendant $75,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1,096.15. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate accepted the defendant had a safety system in place which consisted of substantial documentation and SWMS together with an onsite construction supervisor.
Where it fell short was in the lack of appropriate controls to monitor implementation of its systems by its site supervisor. In particular, where apprentices are working on construction sites the duty holder needed to ensure there was vigilance by all contractors in health and safety obligations.
Acting Magistrate Walker took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation including a full and frank record of interview, was a good corporate citizen, entered a very early plea of guilty, was remorseful and had undertaken elaborate post incident improvement measures.
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 from fall from heights, 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 fall from heights, obligation holders should consider not only the selection of appropriate edge or fall prevention devices, but the monitoring of its status on worksites and the appropriate timing of its removal. Appropriate training, supervision and monitoring of controls is paramount. In addition, where apprentices are being used on worksites, extra vigilance needs to be maintained to ensure all duty holders including sub-contractors are aware and apply their health and safety obligations.
- Date of offence:
- Cuts, abrasions, laceration to the scalp and concussion
- Maroochydore Magistrates Court
- Mr Andrew Walker (Acting)
- s.32 of the duty held under s.19 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $75,000 fine
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: