Gold Coast property management company fined $60,000 for fall from heights
Using an unsafe temporary elevated platform in a Molendinar warehouse has cost a Gold Coast property management company $60,000 for exposing an individual to a risk of death or serious injury.
In April 2020, the property managers used the company’s maintenance boss to build a temporary elevated platform for a subcontractor to use to plaster the mezzanine wall.
The platform was made using two 6m x 20cm aluminium planks built parallel to the warehouse wall using a nail gun and two F-clamps securing it to a nearby cabinet, resting on the mezzanine floor and a timber frame which formed a handrail.
The subcontractor was assured by the maintenance boss the platform was safe as it had been used in the previous weeks by another subbie.
However, while the subcontractor was plastering the wall on the platform, the timber frame supporting aluminium planks unexpectedly gave way falling three metres to the concrete below.
The subbie sustained serious injuries including a compound fracture to his left ankle where bone protruded through the skin and a small haematoma to his forehead. He spent several weeks in hospital undergoing multiple surgeries to repair his ankle.
A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the platform was not constructed according to relevant codes of practice or Australian standards. The defendant was then issued with prohibition and improvement notices.
By May 2020, the defendant had complied with all notices including ceasing the use of the temporary elevated platform, preparing a safe work method statement and mandating the use of the electric scissor lift when working at heights.
At sentencing in the Southport Magistrates Court, Magistrate Dzenita Balic, recognised the company’s head of maintenance had worked in the construction industry for many years and there was no reason for the company to doubt his skill level.
However, Magistrate Balic observed that even the employee did not identify any issues with the temporary elevated platform, the fact that the company did not usually engage in construction-related work should have been a signal for the business to ensure it had appreciated all the risks. The subcontractor was entitled to think the temporary elevated platform was safe given the assurances he received from the employee.
Her Honour also had regard for the significant injuries sustained by the subcontractor, including 10 operations, and the real prospect of amputation, as well as the psychological impact he’d endured. She also accepted the company was small, with no prior convictions, of good character and the work done was incidental to its normal business.
The defendant was fined $60,000, plus court and professional costs of almost $1,600 under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 s32 and 19(1). No conviction was recorded.
Work health and safety prosecution summaries in Queensland are published at www.owhsp.qld.gov.au