The defendant held duties under s.27(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being an officer of a corporation that undertook work as rope access technicians. It encompassed working at heights using rope access and abseiling equipment.
On 5 November 2015 the defendant's company was engaged to enter the smoke extraction ductwork to remove pigeon droppings. The ductwork was under the roof of a convention centre some 17 metres high. A worker removed himself from the abseiling ropes whilst cleaning the ducts. He stepped on an access inspection hatch that had not been identified and that was not load bearing and fell through it. He sustained fatal injuries.
On 5 June 2018 in the Southport Magistrates Court in an ex-parte sentence the defendant was found guilty of breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to exercise due diligence to ensure that the corporation complied with its work health and safety duties.
Magistrate Mark Howden fined the defendant $30,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1,089.00. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate acknowledged that the defendant failed to exercise due diligence to ensure the corporation carried out an adequate risk assessment to identify the hatch and that it was not load bearing. It was a confined space and no risk assessment was carried out or recorded as required. His Honour recognised the need for specific and general deterrence.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Howden took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, but confirmed that the object of the Work Health and Safety Act is to provide for a balanced and nationally consistent framework to ensure safety of workers and others and the need for consistency of sentences between jurisdictions.
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 falls from height, duty holders should consider the following:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- Work at heights
- How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
- Managing the risks of falls at workplaces Code of Practice 2011 (PDF, 3.9 MB)
- E220702 - Individual
- Date of offence:
- Southport Magistrates Court
- Magistrate Mark Howden
- s.32 of the duty under s.27(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: