Fall protection doesn't work if it's "at home"

WorkSafe Victoria
Wednesday, 19 October, 2011

A serial offender prosecuted by WorkSafe for the fourth time told an inspector that potentially life-saving fall protection was "at home" while two of his subcontractors installed a roof and gutters on a house in December last year. Paul Anthony Friend, who operates Latrobe Roofing and Spouting Services in the Geelong region, has accumulated more than $65,000 in fines for safety law breaches since 2001.

Last week, he was again convicted and fined $18,321 for not providing fall protection to contractors working for him. He pleaded guilty to two charges laid under sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Magistrate McGarvie said the past fines had not been a sufficient deterrent and that but for his guilty plea she would have doubled the fine. He was also placed on a 12-month community-based order requiring him to attend an occupational health and safety course which Magistrate McGarvie hoped might "change the way he thinks".

A WorkSafe inspector went to a property in Manifold Heights, Geelong, last December after receiving a tip-off that workers appeared to be working at height without fall protection. The inspector ordered the subcontractors off the roof and when Friend came to the site he said his perimeter guard railing was at home. Guard rails were later installed around the roof and work resumed. Electrical safety issues were also found including untested and untagged tools and worn power cords. Magistrate McGarvie was told Friend had nine prior convictions for the same or similar offences and that he no longer performs work on roofs because of a workplace injury, but engages roofing plumbers as subcontractors to install roof sheeting, spouting and guttering on homes and commercial properties.

The Acting Director of WorkSafe's Construction and Utilities Division, Allan Beacom, said fall protection was a basic legal requirement. "In this case the business has been prosecuted and had ongoing contact with WorkSafe over many years. The lesson for all businesses is that WorkSafe enforces the law.

"Falls from height are a major source of serious injury or death in Victoria. The ways to prevent these injuries are well known. Learning from your own mistakes and those of others will save lives - not doing so puts lives and businesses at risk. It's not good enough to wait until a WorkSafe inspector turns up before safety measures are put in place. Unfortunately, in all industries, it happens all too often.

"Not taking the right safety steps undermines those who do. Many of the complaints received by WorkSafe are from other businesses which are doing the right thing, other workers and their loved ones."

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