A roofing company and its sole director have been fined a total of $60,000 after a worker fell through a skylight in December 2019 and suffered serious physical and psychiatric injuries.
The defendants were sentenced in the Southport Magistrates Court yesterday under Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to comply with their primary health and safety duty and that failure exposed an individual to a risk of death or serious injury.
On 2 December 2019, another roofing company engaged the defendants to cover four skylights on a shed roof with metal sheeting. Before the work started, the defendant gave a toolbox talk to the three workers he’d engaged to do the job. He then left the site.
The men began working on the roof without any measures in place to eliminate or minimise the risk of falling through the skylights. Sadly, the polycarbonate sheet covering one of the skylights broke when a worker stepped on it. He fell about 4.8 metres through the skylight to the ground below.
Magistrate Mark Howden observed that, in engaging workers to carry out the roofing work, the company did not provide any fall prevention device or fall arrest system to minimise a real and foreseeable risk of workers sustaining serious injury. Magistrate Howden also observed that the sole director did not ensure the company used resources and processes to implement either control measure to address the risk. His Honour noted no suitable control measure was implemented even though the company and the director were aware the polycarbonate sheeting could break under load.
In sentencing, Magistrate Howden considered the need for general and specific deterrence as well as the serious physical and emotional consequences for the injured worker. He took into account the defendants’ guilty pleas; their cooperation with the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation; the director’s remorse and that he had no relevant convictions; and the company had no criminal history at all. His Honour accepted the workplace failures were out of character and the company had since improved workplace practices to prevent such failures from occurring again.
In determining the appropriate penalty, Magistrate Howden considered the sentencing of the original business, which had engaged the defendant company to carry out the roofing work. It also had a duty to ensure the health and safety of workers engaged to carry out that work. On 14 October 2021, it pleaded guilty to committing an identical offence substantiated by the same factual circumstances. It was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and enter into a court-ordered undertaking to give recognizance of $25,000. A conviction was not recorded.
Magistrate Howden found that the offending by the company which eventually carried out the work and its director were identical “for practical purposes”. His Honour nonetheless accepted the prosecution submission that it was appropriate for the sole director to receive a separate penalty.
Magistrate Howden considered the capacities of the defendants to pay a fine with the company liable to pay a Workcover claim of around $100,000. He noted the company was small, providing the director’s only source of income and that the owner had limited assets.
His Honour determined the appropriate penalties for the company and the director were fines of $50,000 and $10,000 respectively. No convictions were recorded.
Work health and safety prosecution summaries in Queensland are published at www.owhsp.qld.gov.au
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