Carpentry firm fined $90,000 after worker falls from height

Monday, 02 August, 2021

Carpentry firm fined $90,000 after worker falls from height

A carpentry company has been convicted and fined $90,000, and the company director fined $21,000, after an apprentice worker fell from a height of more than three metres and sustained serious injuries. The incident occurred in December 2018, when the apprentice worker was undertaking wood framing on the first floor of a residential building. The worker was walking backwards and unrolling some building material and fell through an unprotected and uncovered void, where a stairwell was to be installed. The apprentice carpenter fell over three metres onto a concrete surface, and was hospitalised with spinal and pelvic injuries that required surgery. The worker had been employed by the carpentry firm for approximately nine months.

A SafeWork SA investigation found that the incident could have been avoided if a safe work method statement and pre-start checks had been undertaken in relation to controlling the risks of working at live edges. The risk of falls had not been identified and no fall protection had been installed prior to the work task being undertaken.

Matt’s Carpentry Pty Ltd was charged with failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment, failing to ensure a safe system of work for the task undertaken, and failing to perform an adequate risk assessment and identify the hazard of working near an unguarded void. The carpentry company was also charged with failing to ensure appropriate control measures were in place to eliminate or reduce the risk of fall.

Matt’s Carpentry pleaded guilty for breaches of their duties under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA). The company was convicted and fined $90,000 ($150,000 before a 40% discount was applied for an early guilty plea) plus costs. Matthew Pincin, as the director and supervisor, was charged for failing to ensure appropriate hazard and risk assessment processes were in place for the task to be undertaken. Pincin was convicted and fined $21,000 ($35,000 before a 40% discount was applied for an early guilty plea) plus costs.

SafeWork SA Executive Director, Martyn Campbell, said apprentices look to their supervisor for guidance to learn how to undertake their job safely and competently. Campbell urged businesses with apprentices and trainees to understand their obligations under South Australian work health and safety laws.

“The Construction industry is at greater risk of serious injuries associated with working at height. SafeWork SA 2020 data relating to falls from heights identifies carpenters are most at risk. Inspectors from SafeWork SA are currently conducting compliance audits on falls from heights in the residential construction industry and incidents such as this reinforce my zero tolerance to sites that do not take the risk of falls seriously,” said Campbell.

The second defendant submitted that no conviction be recorded; Deputy President Magistrate Cole considered the defendant’s genuine remorse and the significant changes and improvements that had been implemented, however acknowledged the worker “sustained a serious injury which was preventable”. Magistrate Cole further stated that “not recording a conviction would fail to reflect the seriousness of the breach in this case”.

Image credit: © Zajda

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