On 1 December 2022, a construction company was sentenced in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with its primary health and safety duty pursuant to section 19(1) of the Act.
The defendant company operated a construction business and was engaged to conduct refurbishment work at an education site in Burnside.
The defendant company subcontracted a cleaning company to conduct a final clean of level 1 and level 2 of the building where the refurbishment works were taking place. The cleaning of the louvres in the plant room was initially left out of the scope and agreed as a variation cost to complete the works. The cleaning company thereafter subcontracted two individuals to provide cleaning services for the site.
On 23 October 2020, the subcontracted workers were instructed to clean a structure and a plant room, both of which were located on the roof. The workers used the pre-existing metal walkway on the roof to get to the plant room to remove mould from the louvres.
After completing the work in the plant room, one of the workers either stepped away from the structure on the roof or was walking across the roof when he fell approximately 4.7 metres through a skylight onto tiled floor. The worker was taken to hospital by ambulance and released the next day with minor bruising.
The defendant company failed to ensure appropriate controls were implemented before work commenced on the roof to manage the risk of hazard, including edge protection or barriers around the skylights. Similarly, there was no Safe Work Method Statement in place to address the cleaning of the louvres of the plant room on the roof that identified the skylights as a fall risk, despite the requirement to do so.
An investigation by Work Health and Safety Queensland revealed that the cost of the edge protection of the roof for the six-month period prior to the incident was $1,534.30. Inquiries revealed that if extra fencing had been requested to fit around the eight skylights on the roof, it would have cost the defendant company an additional $572.00.
Following the incident, the defendant company’s contract was amended to replace the existing skylights and provide a safe solution. The installation of new skylights including steel bars built into the skylight frame was completed in December 2020.
In arriving at his sentence, his Honour took into account the defendant’s early plea of guilty, their lack of previous history and otherwise positive safety record. His Honour also accepted that the defendant cooperated with the investigation, however, noted that deterrence was of particular importance.
In light of these factors, a fine of $65,000 was imposed along with $1601.40 in costs, to be paid within 30 days. No conviction was recorded.
OWHSP contact: email@example.com
Sections 19(1) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011