Company fined after worker falls through ceiling panel

Monday, 18 March, 2024

Company fined after worker falls through ceiling panel

Metal fabrication subcontractor Karagata Australia Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $35,000 after a worker sustained serious injuries when he fell four metres at Tullamarine. The company pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing, so far as reasonably practicable, to maintain a safe working environment. The company was also ordered to pay $5000 in costs.

The incident occurred in December 2021, when two workers and the company director were installing a mesh walkway on a mezzanine level at Melbourne Airport. They were working from an aluminium plank that was resting on — but not fixed to — metal beams. When the plank overturned, one of the workers fell through a ceiling panel onto the floor four metres below. He was taken to hospital suffering multiple injuries, including fractures and spinal injuries.

An investigation conducted by WorkSafe Victoria found that the company had failed to eliminate or control the risk of a fall by using a fall arrest system, such as a crash deck. It was also reasonably practicable for the company to have established a Safe Work Method Statement that described measures to control the risk of falling and how they would be implemented, and to ensure high-risk construction work was carried out in accordance with the statement.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said there is no excuse for not putting safety first when working at heights. “It takes just seconds for a worker to fall and the consequences can be devastating, including shocking injuries and loss of life,” Beer said. More than 160 workers have already been seriously injured falling from heights this year, yet despite the well-known risks, we still see people working at heights without appropriate protection, often with terrible consequences,” Beer said.

To prevent falls from height, WorkSafe advises employers to eliminate the risk by, where practicable, doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction. Employers are also advised to use a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms. Use of a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system, is also encouraged to ensure employees work within a safe area. Use of a fall arrest system, such as a harness, catch platform or safety nets, can also limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall. Employers should also use a fixed or portable ladder, or implement administrative controls.

Image credit: Taesuwan

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