Carpenter fined after serious fall injury

Wednesday, 25 November, 2009

Adelaide-based carpentry and joinery contractor Conlay Constructions pleaded guilty in the South Australian Industrial Court to one count of breaching section 19(1) of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986, in failing to ensure the safety of an employee at work.

In 2007, a carpenter’s assistant, then aged 23, was assigned to fix some nails to the rafters in the loft of a house under construction. The stairwell void was left unguarded and, during the task, the young worker fell 3 m through the gap onto concrete below.

In his penalty decision, Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke described the young man’s resulting injuries as devastating, with multiple skull fractures, haemorrhaging, fractured vertebrae, significant damage to his brain and severe physical, sensory and cognitive impairment.

The Magistrate said: “…he can no longer live independently, will never work again, cannot drive and has limited ability to interact with other people. He requires 24-hour care.”

SafeWork SA had submitted to the court that fall protection provided for earlier work had been removed and, according to the Magistrate: “There was no consideration given to providing any temporary barrier to the void. It was forseeable that a risk of injury from falling was created as soon as the temporary barriers had been removed and while an employee was still expected to perform some activities in the loft area.”

The company was fined $25,000 and ordered to pay $10,000 compensation to the victim’s mother. The fine had been reduced to account for the employer’s early guilty plea, cooperation and contrition.

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