The importance of following through with safety protocols and adhering to codes of practice was highlighted in a recent court judgement. A contractor was fined $40,000 even though the magistrate accepted the defendant had instituted thorough safety systems and the failures related to an isolated case involving two workers.
However, while the safety systems were in place, including a safe work method statement as well as prestart meetings, checklists and task risk assessments, scaffolding had been left in an incomplete state. The scaffolding had nothing to restrict access to it, had missing and unsecured bottom and mid-rails, and absent scaffold posts and kickboards.
The Toowoomba Magistrates Court heard that the defendant, a Toowoomba Second Range Crossing contractor, had therefore failed 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 work on the crossing and provide and erect scaffolding, as well as supply workers for viaduct work on the construction site. On 23 April 2018, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors visited the site and inspected pier 2 of the viaduct, witnessing at least two workers on the pier prior to their inspection.
The inspectors climbed the stretcher stairs to the decks of formwork, noticing there were no controls to prevent workers from entering the scaffold stairs and accessing the formwork decks. The incomplete scaffolding exposed workers and others to the risk of falls from height and the risk of being struck by falling objects.
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 people to risk. Magistrate Osborne took into consideration the defendant had no previous WHS convictions, entered a timely plea and was co-operative with investigators.
He 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. The court imposed one penalty for two charges under sections 32 and 19(1)/19(2) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, fining the defendant $40,000, with no conviction recorded.
More prosecutions are at Office of the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor website