Two companies fined over workplace fall

Monday, 05 January, 2009

An industrial magistrate fined two companies in separate prosecutions over the same incident in which a young worker fell through a skylight.

In September 2005, a 25-year-old apprentice electrician sustained numerous spinal fractures after falling 4.5 m through a skylight, while installing air conditioning at an Olympic Dam workshop. He recovered from his injuries and returned to work after three months.

Garry Baker Building Pty Ltd was fined $27,000 in the SA Industrial Relations Court for breaching s19(1) of the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986, in failing to ensure the safety of an employee.

SafeWork SA’s investigation found that the injured worker was not wearing a safety harness for work at heights and there was no use of crawlboards to cover the fragile skylights.

Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke said it was an understatement for the employer to concede too much had been left to the worker in terms of safety: “It was not just allowing an employee to exercise too much discretion, it was instead the delegation of safety to an employee’s own judgement in substitution for having a clear policy.”

In a separate prosecution over the same incident, the workshop owner, Olympic Dam Precision Engineering, was fined $24,000 for breaching section 23A(2a) of the Act in failing to ensure its building was in a condition that allowed the worker to be safe from injury. This charge related to its failure to provide a safe roof by not adequately guarding the skylights and not warning the tradesmen about their fragile nature.

SafeWork SA says falls account for 20% of all workplace injuries, with double that rate in the construction industry.


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