WA sole trader fined after worker fall

Tuesday, 19 September, 2023

WA sole trader fined after worker fall

A sole trader in Western Australia has been fined $47,250 and ordered to pay $4241 in costs over a fall suffered by a worker that caused serious injuries. Brett Sidney Cavanagh, based in the Great Southern, pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee.

In August 2020, Cavanagh was engaged by Kojonup Auto Electrics to install insulation to the underside of a mechanical workshop roof and later to replace skylight panels in the roof with tin panels. The insulation had been installed some months before, and Cavanagh returned to the workshop with two workers he had hired to help replace the skylights with tin panels. When all three men were working on the roof of the workshop, a worker fell through one of the skylights to the ground approximately 4.8 metres below, sustaining serious injuries including extensive bruising and fractures to his elbow, arm, ribs and pelvis.

The court heard that no risk assessment had been carried out prior to the work commencing, and no fall protection was provided. WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the failure to have a safe fall injury prevention system in place was a serious failing that exposed three workers to unacceptable risk. Cavanagh also failed to provide his workers with training or instruction on working at heights or on potentially brittle surfaces.

“None of the three workers — including Mr Cavanagh — had any fall protection equipment and the skylight panels were not identified by signage or any other means. Western Australia has had a Code of Practice for the Prevention of Falls at Workplaces since 2004. It provides practical guidance to effectively manage fall risks and should be followed in all workplaces where a risk of falls is present. The code is almost 20 years old, so it would be reasonable to think that anyone potentially involved in working on a roof would at least be familiar with the code’s requirements,” Kavanagh said.

Magistrate Scaddan said that the incident was avoidable and that there were steps that could have been taken to prevent it from happening. Her Honour also said there was no safety procedure in place other than a basic verbal procedure, and that the offender could have taken minor and hardly inconvenient steps. Scaddan noted that Cavanagh was remorseful, remained friends with the injured worker and had assisted him on a personal level.

Image credit: iStock.com/U. J. Alexander

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