Court case leads to reminder to owner-builders on workplace safety

WorkSafe has reminded owner-builders of their responsibility for workplace safety after an owner-builder was fined $25,000 and granted a spent conviction over an incident in which a worker fell from a roof.

The South-West owner-builder (who cannot be identified due to the spent conviction) pleaded guilty to failing to take practicable measures to ensure that persons at the workplace were not exposed to hazards, and was fined in the Margaret River Court on Monday.

The owner was in control of construction of a two-storey home on his property, and had previously constructed another home as an owner-builder.

The owner had been working on the roof with a contractor when the contractor fell from the roof and suffered serious injuries.

Neither temporary fall injury prevention anchorages nor scaffolding were installed on that side of the roof, despite the fact they were locally available and easily installed.

WorkSafe Western Australia Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the case should serve as a reminder that owner-builders are responsible for worker safety on their construction sites.

“Owner-builders have considerable control over their construction sites, so workplace safety laws hold them responsible for the safety and health of the workers on those sites,” he said.

“This owner had complete control over the workplace – he granted access to the site, personally managed the day-to-day running of the build, engaged all tradespersons, purchased materials and was even personally engaged in the manual labour of the construction work.

“He should have known better after having owner-built a home previously and having earlier been warned by a WorkSafe inspector about fall injury prevention measures that needed to be in place.

“Anyone considering becoming an owner-builder needs to ensure they are familiar with their obligation to provide workers on their construction site with a safe and healthy workplace for the duration of the build.”

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