Company fined $120K for failing to provide fall protection
An electrical company has been fined $120,000 for exposing workers to risk of serious injury on a Geelong construction site. Sandarra Electrics was convicted of failing to eliminate or reduce the risk of a fall from height, as well as failing to prepare a Safe Work Method Statement for high-risk construction work, in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court on 11 October, according to WorkSafe Victoria.
The charges come after WorkSafe Victoria inspectors visited a two-storey building where Sandarra workers were installing solar panels and electrical wiring in 2017. During their visit, the inspectors saw the company’s director — who was in charge of two other workers (a first-year apprentice and a man on work experience) — standing on the first-floor verandah roof without a harness.
They also saw the apprentice on the second-storey roof, wearing a harness that was not attached to any fall protection ropes. It was also not being worn correctly, with the straps over his shoulders and arms instead of his legs, WorkSafe Victoria said. Additionally, Sandarra had not prepared a Safe Work Method Statement — which is required where there is a risk of falling more than two metres — despite the top of the verandah being 2.5 metres from the ground and the second story being around 5.5 metres.
Further, WorkSafe Victoria said there was no fall protection in place for an extension ladder being used to gain access to the roof and no evidence that a bracket attached to the ladder could stop it from falling, should it slip. Sandarra later complied with an Improvement Notice by having all of its employees complete a working at height safety course, before the company was placed into liquidation in May 2019.
WorkSafe Victoria’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Julie Nielsen, said failure to take a safety-first approach when installing solar panels could have deadly consequences. “The combination of height and electricity calls for employers to be doubly cautious when it comes to the safety of workers installing solar systems,” she said. “There is no excuse for failing to protect workers from the risks of falls from height or electrocution; they are well known and WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute employers who do not control them, even if no incident has occurred.”
To prevent falls from height, WorkSafe Victoria recommended employers: eliminate the risk by doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction; use a passive fall prevention device, such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guard rails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms; and use a positioning system, such as a travel restraint system. A fall arrest system, such as a catch platform or safety nets, a fixed or portable ladder, and administrative controls can also be used.
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