A demolition company has been fined $75,000 without conviction after an employee fell through a skylight while working at a Toorak house.
The worker fell 2.5 metres onto concrete and suffered a spinal fracture, serious head trauma and post traumatic amnesia.
Simcat Enterprises Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 1 August to one count under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of failing, so far as is reasonably practicable, to provide and maintain a working environment, plant and systems that are safe and without risks to health.
The company was also ordered to pay WorkSafe’s costs of $5,335.
The court was told the worker fell after the site’s foreman directed workers to throw debris from a carport into a truck parked in front of the dwelling.
This was in contradiction to a Safe Work Method Statement which had been agreed for the task.
Work had barely started at 7.30am when the worker carrying a bundle of debris fell through the sky light that formed part of the carport roof.
The court was told that at the time of the incident there was no guard or fall protection in place and employees working on the balcony were at risk of serious injury or death from falling over the edges or through the skylights.
It heard that it was reasonable for the risk of death or injury to be eliminated or reduced by maintaining the agreed system of work to throw debris into a skip below the eastern edge of the first floor balcony where there was adequate guarding and railing in place.
WorkSafe Health and Safety Executive Director Julie Nielsen said there was no excuse for failing to protect workers from falls from height as the risks are well known.
“Sadly this worker has suffered life changing injuries because safety controls were not properly followed,” Ms Nielsen said.
“Safe Work Method Statements are there to ensure every worker on site knows how to undertake tasks safely and they should not be ignored or changed without agreement.”
“Falling from height can have catastrophic consequences and WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute employers who do not control the associated risks.”
To ensure SWMS are effective employers and duty holders must:
- Ensure that once a SWMS has been developed, all high-risk construction work is undertaken in accordance with that SWMS.
- Stop work immediately, or as soon as it is safe to do so, once they become aware a SWMS is not being followed.
- Review the SWMS whenever there is a change in the work being undertaken or if there is an indication that control measures are not adequate.
- A copy of the SWMS must be retained for the duration of any high-risk construction work.
To prevent falls from height employers can:
- Eliminate the risk by doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.
They can also:
- Use a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
- Use a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system.
- Use a fall arrest system, such as a catch platform or safety nets.
- Use a fixed or portable ladder or implement administrative controls.