The defendant held duties under s.19 (1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 as a sub contracted carpenter in his own business and host employer of apprentice carpenters. He was working both as a site supervisor and contract carpenter on the construction of a 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 defendant admitted the apprentices had worked at height on other occasions 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 his work health and safety duties and was sentenced.
Acting Magistrate Walker fined the defendant $30,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $846.15. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate accepted the defendant had some safety systems in place, including his own SWMS regarding working at heights and use of edge protection and had undertaken induction of workers at the site. He accepted that after 36 years as an experienced carpenter, trading for 14 years and undertaken the supervision of over 20 apprentice carpenters with no previous work health and safety breaches, he had an otherwise unblemished record. The defendant had clearly over extended himself on this project by taking on the role of site supervisor which included supervision of over 26 sub-contractors, together with his own carpentry tasks, including overseeing apprentices at the site.
The system fell short when the principal contractor failed to provide adequate training and instruction to him, as site supervisor. The defendant had also failed in his role of host employer to apprentices where the expectation and legislative requirements mandate robust induction, training and supervision.
Acting Magistrate Walker took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, had entered an early plea of guilty, was remorseful and had undertaken post incident improvement measures including voluntary refresher training in work at heights and commenced undertaking Certificate IV Work Health and Safety.
The defendant also ceased working at the site as a carpenter, solely undertaking the role as site supervisor with additional substantial human resources available to assist him. He worked closely with the principal contractor to upgrade all safety, training and induction systems at the site. A blanket ban on removal of all scaffolding/edge protection at the worksite until completion of all works was mandated and implemented.
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 (1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $30,000 fine
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: