Asbestos removal company fined after fall from height fatality


Wednesday, 19 October, 2022

Asbestos removal company fined after fall from height fatality

Asbestos removal company Empire Contracting Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $300,000 after an employee was fatally injured during demolition site preparation at a Wollongong University site in 2020. Active Head of SafeWork NSW Andrew Gavrielatos said that the company pleaded guilty to one count of failing to ensure as far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of others.

“In this case the court heard the incident happened while employees of Empire Contracting Pty were attending to asbestos removal tasks in the roof of student accommodation ahead of demolition work. Two employees wearing safety equipment for working at heights had just finished attending to asbestos waste in the roof and were about to descend a ladder. One man removed his safety lanyard from his harness. Untethered, the employee stepped towards the ladder and fell through breakable asbestos roof sheeting to the concrete floor below,” Gavrielatos said.

The worker fell more than two metres and did not survive the resulting injuries. Additionally, the subsequent investigation found the deceased did not possess the qualifications or experience to work at heights. The charge against Empire Contracting was brought by SafeWork NSW and the sentence was imposed by Judge Strathdee of the NSW District Court on 30 September 2022. The company has a right to appeal the sentence.

“Working at any height is an inherently dangerous activity, which is why training and support are available for those businesses and employees attending to such duties. Relentless vigilance and a ‘safety first’ approach are required in any workplace to help guard against any risks and prevent injuries and deaths,” Gavrielatos said.

SafeWork NSW provides free resources for businesses and employees about managing the risk of falls. Information is also available about working safely with ladders and at heights. The NSW Government also provides $1000 rebates for eligible small businesses to purchase safety equipment. Click here to learn more about the rebates.

Image credit: iStock.com/ArjanL

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