A construction company and plumbing firm have been fined a total of $180,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs after a plumber fell from the roof of a supermarket development in Young in mid 2008, causing significant injuries.
Kell & Rigby (ACT) Pty Ltd, fined $110,000, was the head contractor employed on a project to build an ALDI supermarket in Young at 11 Zouch Street, Young. Kell & Rigby had a number of sub-contractors including Bodel’s Plumbing Service Ltd, which was fined $70,000.
On 5 July 2008 45-year-old Michael Hush was working for Bodel’s installing a plumbing system on the six-metre-high supermarket roof.
Mr Hush had climbed onto the roof near its apex when he slipped and slid rapidly down the roof. He then fell onto scaffolding about one metre below the roof, then through the scaffolding, eventually falling onto the concrete floor around four metres below.
Mr Hush sustained multiple serious injuries including a broken femur, five broken ribs and a protruding disc in his lower back.
Mr Hush underwent several surgical procedures and required lengthy rehabilitation as a result of his injuries. He returned to work on suitable duties approximately 12 months after the incident.
After Workcover completed its investigation and began prosecution proceedings in the NSW Industrial Court, Kell & Rigby pleaded guilty to breaching section 10(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 and Bodel’s pleaded guilty to breaching section 8(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000.
After considering the circumstances of the accident, Justice Patricia Kavanagh found both companies had failed in their responsibility to provide a safe workplace on numerous grounds.
Mr Hush should have been wearing a harness before he was given permission to start work on the roof. This would have stopped him from slipping off the roof.
No roof edge guardrail had been installed which would have stopped Mr Hush from falling from the roof onto scaffolding.
Similarly, the scaffolding working deck was not fitted with any internal handrails or kickboards which would have stopped Mr Hush from falling further through the scaffolding to the concrete floor.
Mr Hush was also not provided with adequate safety training before carrying out work on this site and there was a clear lack of supervision of Mr Hush.
In handing down the penalties, the court found both companies had failed in their shared responsibility for Mr Hush’s safety.
Justice Kavanagh said the breaches were serious and foreseeable in the circumstances.
She said there were simple and straightforward steps both companies could have taken that would have reduced the risk to workers.
She also said there was “a clear failure of supervision at the site” and added that “The Court reiterates that not only is there a need for rigorous supervision but experienced supervisors must also be given regular re-education on basic site safety standards”.
WorkCover NSW’s General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division John Watson said safety for workers should be the highest priority for all employers, especially for those working on construction sites.
“The safety of workers must always be the top priority for employers,” Mr Watson said.
“You need to select scaffolding that is suitable for the task and is provided with adequate reinforcement for the scaffolding’s support structure so it’s stable and that appropriate guard rails and kickboards are attached.
“Employers also need to provide on-site workers and subcontractors with adequate information, instruction, training and supervision.
“Most importantly, you need to use a competent person to erect, alter and dismantle the scaffolding, especially if someone or something can fall more than four metres from it.
“There was a serious risk to the safety of this worker at the site and steps should have been taken to prevent the incident and resulting injuries.
“The message is an important one. Work Safe, Home Safe,” Mr Watson said.
Article from SafetyinAustralia
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