Fall from height lands $62K fine

Wednesday, 02 October, 2019

Fall from height lands $62K fine

Two construction companies have been convicted, fined $62,500 and ordered to pay a $3000 victims levy after a 31-year-old worker fell three metres onto a concrete floor in 2017. Breakthrough (NQ) — the injured worker’s employer — and Probuild (Northern Territory [NT]) — the worksite’s principle contractor — pleaded guilty to three charges in Darwin Local Court for a series of events NT WorkSafe described as “a casual disregard for work health and safety”.

Breakthrough was charged with breaching sections 32 and 39 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011, for failing to comply with a health and safety duty and failing to preserve an incident site, respectively. Probuild was also charged with breaching section 32. According to NT WorkSafe, Breakthrough workers were removing asbestos sheets from the exterior facade of a breezeway’s roof when the incident occurred. The workers had earlier signed induction forms, despite not doing an induction.

The roof had a number of skylight openings and the risk of a fall from height had been identified; however, it was only managed by stringing yellow tape between a bollard and extension lead poles as a visual warning, NT WorkSafe said. The Acting Executive Director of NT WorkSafe, Neil Burgess, said when workers are required to lean over the skylight opening to remove screws a visual warning is not going to prevent a fall.

“Measures used to control a risk need to be effective in order to prevent an incident from occurring,” Burgess said. “Scaffolding planks available at the worksite could have been better used to manage the risk of falls by covering the skylight openings and creating a stable work platform.”

The injured worker slipped and fell at the first skylight opening and required an ambulance to transport him to hospital. Instead of stopping work and preserving the incident scene until an NT WorkSafe inspector arrived, the two remaining workers continued to put themselves at risk, working over an additional six skylight openings without adequate fall prevention measures in place.

“Employers and workers have responsibilities regarding workplace health and safety under the Territory’s laws,” Burgess said. “Because these responsibilities were not taken seriously, a worker required surgery and was unable to work for over a year because of his injuries.”

During sentencing, Chief Judge Dr John Lowndes said if one defendant failed to observe a policy or guideline but the other picked it up, the matter would not be before the courts today. Dr Lowndes went on to say the responsibility needed to be shared and found each company was equally culpable for what occurred.

Image: Yellow construction tape used as visual warning, courtesy NT WorkSafe.

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