The defendant company held duties under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a construction company undertaking residential and commercial builds.
The defendant company was a multi-award winning gold coast based builder specialising in luxury one off designs. On 3 July 2015 an experienced carpenter working at the defendant's building site fell through a stairwell void on the first floor of the construction. He sustained injury, including skull, cheek and vertebral fracture and a brain bleed. The worker and the site supervisor had been carrying a prefabricated wooden frame. The supervisor was walking forward and the worker backwards, when he fell through the unprotected void.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Southport Magistrates Court on 13 December 2017 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 Joan White fined the defendant $65,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $1092.50. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate took into account an affidavit prepared by the owner and sole director and said the culpability of the defendant lay in the failure to provide specific instructions to workers. Her Honour distinguished this matter from previous decisions in that in some cases there were no safety measures in place and involved inexperienced apprentices.
The defendant gave insight into the safety issues explaining that the relevant scaffold had been delayed and it was erected post incident.
It was acknowledged by the Court that the defendant failed to take measures to specifically advise workers engaged in risky activity and therefore failed in its duty. There was a need for a specific and a general deterrence. In deciding penalty, Magistrate White took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and had good corporate history.
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 serious injury or death, 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)
- Date of offence:
- Skull, cheekbone and vertebral fractures and brain injury
- Southport Magistrates Court
- Magistrate Joan White
- s.32 of the duty under s.19 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: