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Edge protection company and its director fined $55,000 for exposing workers to risk of serious injury or death


18 March 2020

After a hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court last Wednesday, an edge protection company has been fined $50,000 for failing to comply with its primary safety duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, exposing workers to risk of serious injury or death from roof falls.

Its hands-on director was also fined $5,000 for failing to comply with his duty as an officer of the company.

The company provides and installs edge protection on roofs so third parties can safely work at height.

Between 3 and 7 March 2018, the company was installing edge protection to a house in Highgate Hill, where the roof was being replaced. On 7 March, a roofing contractor lent against one of the horizontal edge protection rails which failed, and he fell 2.6m to the concrete below. The man suffered a significant facture to his left knee, as well as lacerations to his left leg and hand.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the rail hadn't been properly secured by the scaffold coupling which wasn't tightened sufficiently. A technical report obtained by WHSQ also suggested the coupling and horizontal railing configuration could've been installed with the railing abutting behind the vertical scaffold support post to provide back up in case the coupling accidently released. The investigation revealed the company work method statement for installing edge protection required one designated worker to check all couplings to ensure they were secure. However, that wasn't the case on this occasion as the director (the person designated to check) had left for around 30 minutes to quote on another job and the worker he assigned the task to didn't do it either.

In sentencing, Magistrate Stephen Courtney said general deterrence was a factor in determining the penalty, as well as denouncing the defendants' conduct. His Honour accepted the director was remorseful and had been affected by the incident. However, Magistrate Courtney noted the purpose of the WHS legislative scheme was to ensure the community was protected with workers being able to return home safe. The court was told the worker suffered significant injuries, but thankfully had recovered and returned to his roofing job.

His Honour observed the company continued to operate, though not particularly profitable, and that any penalty he imposed would be a significant burden. He took into consideration the defendants' co-operation with the investigation, that neither had any prior WHS contraventions, an early guilty plea and the post incident measures implemented that would, if followed, ensure a similar incident would not occur.

The company was fined $50,000 with no conviction recorded. The director received a $5,000 fine with no conviction recorded. Court costs of $1,000 were shared by the two defendants.

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