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Builder fined $77,000 for safety breaches at different worksites

A builder has been fined $77,200 over alleged offences occurring at two different worksites in the neighbouring Brisbane suburbs of Annerley and Greenslopes.

The company was fined in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for seven breaches under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 dating back to 2017. In total, there were three complaints and seven charges laid.

Two complaints followed a visit by a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspector at two different housing construction sites in 2017. Uncontrolled fall from height risks relating to unbarricaded voids and unbarricaded edges on upper level work decks were detected, along with inadequately maintained scaffolding and inadequate worker access and egress, prompting four improvement notices.

The third complaint related to another site visit in 2018 when uncontrolled work at height issues were again detected, with labourers working from an upper level balcony without edge protection in place. The defendant company was the builder responsible for the work and had control of the sites. Fortunately, no workers or others were injured as a result of these breaches.

Magistrate Elizabeth Hall said these were serious offences and the defendant failed to adequately address the obvious hazards while allowing work to continue. She said the types of hazards needed systems of inspection and work planning to address them.

Magistrate Hall stressed the company was on notice at the time of the second complaint and this was a more serious breach as the same hazards were present and identified some weeks after the inspector's initial visit to the Annerley site. In making her decision, Magistrate Hall noted the company was small and considered the total penalty was substantial. She was mindful in imposing the penalties that they would not crush the business and force it in to liquidation.

The co-operation showed by the company was also taken into account and the fact there had been no previous convictions, a guilty plea, and the director's good character. The magistrate noted the director had unfortunately become overwhelmed by the amount of work the company was doing and the offences weren't a deliberate intention of not complying with the WHS Act. The company had ultimately remedied the risks present at the sites.

No conviction was recorded. However, the company was charged, convicted and penalties imposed were:

  1. Complaint 1 (Annerley)
    • one breach of s.33 of the duty it held under s.20 (person management/control workplace) – $25,000 fine
    • two breaches of s.193 (failing to comply with and improvement notice) - $3,600 fine for both charges
  2. Complaint 2 (Greenslopes)
    • one breach of s.33 of the duty it held under s.20 (person management/control workplace) – $30,000 fine
    • two breaches of s.193 (fail comply Imp Notice) - $3,600 fine for both charges
  3. Complaint 3 (Annerley)
    • one breach of s.33 of the duty it held under s.20 (person management/control workplace) – $15,000 fine.

Professional and court costs of almost $1,800 were also ordered.

Further information

More information on industrial prosecutions is at worksafe.qld.gov.au