Builder fined for failing to manage fall risks at construction site
Building company K1 Homes ID Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $100,000 for putting workers in danger by repeatedly failing to control the risks of a fall from height, and also of electric shock or electrocution. The company pleaded guilty to two charges under section 26 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 of failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health and safety.
The offences occurred during the construction of multi-level townhouses on Brunswick Road, Brunswick. The court heard that on 29 January 2019, the company was issued five improvement notices from WorkSafe inspectors, including for failing to control the risk of a fall from height. At the time, inspectors noted that unassembled scaffolding was present at the time. Despite regular follow-up inspections, it took almost five months for the company to satisfactorily comply with WorkSafe’s improvement notices.
On 23 September 2019, a WorkSafe inspector again attended the workplace and observed a worker working at height with no fall protection in place and issued a prohibition notice that prevented access to the area until fall protection was installed. On 19 June 2020, a WorkSafe inspector observed workers at the site working at height without fall protection. Nine new improvement notices were issued, including two that related to control risks associated with falls from height and one in relation to the risk of electrocution, with multiple power leads piggybacking and exceeding 35 metres in total length. The leads were also hanging off structures and lying in water.
During sentencing, the court stated that the absence of any injuries did not mitigate the gravity of the offence. The court also found that although no one was injured, the risks associated with falls from height and electrocution should be obvious to any building and the safety issues were ongoing for 18 months.
So far in 2022, fines totalling $727,500 have been imposed against companies and directors in 22 WorkSafe prosecutions for failing to protect workers from the dangers of working from height. WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said WorkSafe inspectors are proactively targeting building sites across the state, with strong attention being paid to fall prevention practices, as workplace deaths and injuries from falls from height were far too common. “In July this year, three tradespeople in three days fell from a height, which underscores just how important it is to have the necessary precautions in place,” Beer said.
To prevent falls from height, employers are advised to eliminate the risk by, where practicable, doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction. Use of a passive fall prevention device (such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms) is also advised. Employers can also use a positioning system (such as a travel-restraint system) or a fall arrest system (such as a harness, catch platform or safety nets), to limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall. Employers should also consider using a fixed or portable ladder, or implementing administrative controls.
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