At a recent hearing in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court, a contractor on the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing was fined $40,000 for failing to comply with its health and safety duty exposing workers and others to a risk of serious injury or death.
In August 2015, the company was sub-contracted to design and supply ‘Pier Formwork and Headstock Falsework’ at the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing. It also provided and erected scaffolding and supplied personnel for work on a number of piers at the viaduct on the construction site.
On 23 April 2018, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors attended the TSRC site and inspected Pier 2 of the viaduct. The inspectors witnessed at least two workers on the pier prior to their inspection. The inspectors climbed the stretcher stairs to the decks of formwork. There were no controls to prevent persons from entering the scaffold stairs and accessing the formwork decks.
The inspection and subsequent investigation revealed scaffolding was left in an incomplete state, with missing and unsecured bottom and mid-rails, together with absent scaffold posts and kickboards. The incomplete scaffolding exposed workers and others to the risk of falls from height and the risk of being struck by falling objects.
Safety systems were in place, including a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS), prestart meetings and checklists, together with task risk assessments. Despite these systems, the scaffolding was left in an incomplete state, with nothing to restrict access to it. Had the work been done in line with the SWMS and/or the Scaffolding Code of Practice 2009, the offending would not have occurred.
In sentencing, Magistrate Howard Osborne noted the defendant’s offending conduct was leaving the scaffolding in an incomplete state and failing to restrict access to it, thereby exposing workers (and others) to risk.
Magistrate Osborne took into consideration the defendant had no previous WHS convictions, entered a timely plea and was co-operative with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigators.
His Honour noted deterrence was an important consideration in assessing penalty, as workplace accidents are prevalent and a message needs to be sent to others that a failure to comply with WHS obligations was a serious matter.
Magistrate Osborne accepted the defendant had instituted thorough safety systems and the failures related to an isolated case involving two workers. His Honour acknowledged this was not a case where the defendant ignored its duties, noting risks were foreseen and controls were in place, but those controls were not complied with. Magistrate Osborne took into account the company had demonstrated remorse and no harm resulted from what he considered to be an offence at the low to mid-range of seriousness.
His Honour imposed one penalty for two charges under sections 32 and 19(1)/19(2) of the Work Health Safety Act 2011, fining the defendant $40,000, with no conviction recorded.
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