No working at heights safety measures costs construction and roofing company dearly

A Brisbane-based construction and roofing company has been fined $50,000, with a further $25,000 surety attached to a two-year undertaking, in the Southport Magistrates Court after a 2019 workplace incident left a man with a severe brain injury when he fell through a skylight in the South Burnett.

The company had been contracted to replace the roofs on two sheds, including four skylights.

One of the employees was on the workshop roof when he accidentally stepped onto a polycarbonate skylight sheet and fell 4.8m onto the concrete floor. He suffered a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the defendant company hadn’t implemented adequate safety measures, such as fall prevention devices, a fall arrest system or safe system of work to address the specific hazard of working around skylights.

The company was charged under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011 with failing to implement appropriate control measures to eliminate or minimise the risk of a worker falling through the roof. This failure exposed those working on the roof to a risk of death or serious injury.

At sentencing, Magistrate Kerry Magee took into account the defendant’s early plea, cooperation with the investigation and lack of prior convictions.

Her Honour also considered that since the offence the defendant has taken steps to remedy safety deficiencies by investing in workplace health and safety measures. However, she noted the risk of falling should have been addressed via a fall prevention device or fall arrest system.

Magistrate Magee considered the seriousness of the risk (a fall of up to 4.8m) and the serious injuries suffered, including the psychological impact of the incident. Her Honour also noted there were thankfully no anticipated long-term consequences for the man, which would affect his capacity to return to work in the future.

The company’s financial circumstances brought on by Covid-19 disruptions to business cashflow as well as supply chains of materials and engaging workers because of border closures was acknowledged.

The defendant company was fined $50,000 and ordered to pay court and professional costs of almost $1,600. Magistrate Magee also imposed a $25,000 surety attached to a two-year court ordered WHS undertaking, pursuant to section 239 of the WHS Act. In that time, if the company doesn’t commit an offence against the Act and the undertaking isn’t breached, it would be discharged from the undertaking on 13 October 2023.

No conviction was recorded.

Work health and safety prosecution summaries in Queensland are published at www.owhsp.qld.gov.au

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