Safety lanyard disconnected before Wollongong fatality

NSW Department of Customer Service

An asbestos removal company has been convicted and fined $300,000 after an employee was fatality injured during demolition site preparation at a Wollongong University site in 2020.

Acting Head of SafeWork Andrew Gavrielatos said Empire Contracting Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the New South Wales District Court to one count of failing to ensure as far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of workers.  

“In this case the court heard the incident happened while employees of Empire Contracting Pty Ltd were attending to asbestos removal tasks in the roof of student accommodation ahead of demolition work,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“Two employees wearing safety equipment for working at heights had just finished attending to asbestos waste in the roof and were about to descend a ladder.

“One man removed his safety lanyard from his harness. Untethered, the employee stepped towards the ladder and fell through breakable asbestos roof sheeting to the concrete floor below.”

The court heard the worker fell more than two metres and did not survive the resulting injuries. Additionally, the subsequent investigation found the deceased did not possess the qualifications or experience to work at heights.

The charge against Empire Contracting Pty Ltd was brought by SafeWork NSW and the sentence was imposed by Judge Strathdee of the NSW District Court on 30 September 2022. Link to the court’s judgment.

The company has a right to appeal the sentence.

“Working at any height is an inherently dangerous activity which is why training and support are available for those businesses and employees attending to such duties,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“Relentless vigilance and a ‘safety first’ approach are required in any workplace to help guard against any risks and prevent injuries and deaths.”

SafeWork NSW provides free resources for businesses and employees about managing the risk of falls here. Information is also available about working safely with ladders and at heights here.

The NSW Government provides $1000 rebates for eligible small businesses to purchase safety equipment. Click here to

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