On 14 October 2021, a roof repair company was sentenced in the Southport 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 under section 19(1) of the Act. Magistrate Kerry Magee fined the company $50,000 and imposed a two-year court ordered undertaking under the Act in the sum of $25,000. No conviction was recorded.
The defendant was engaged to remove and replace the roof on two sheds, a workshop shed and a machinery/main shed. The work included the removal and replacement of four skylights on the workshop shed roof. The defendant subcontracted the work to another roof repair company, which further sub-contracted the work.
On 2 December 2019, workers commenced work on the workshop shed roof. In the course of that work, one worker inadvertently stepped on a polycarbonate skylight sheet which broke. The worker fell 4.5-4.8m to the concrete floor below. The worker suffered a traumatic brain injury including acute extradural hematoma and skull fractures requiring surgical intervention, as well as rib fractures, thoracic transverse process fractures, ongoing cognitive deficits from the traumatic brain injury, perforated ear drum and reduced hearing, and psychological injuries including post-traumatic stress disorder.
The defendant with failing to implement appropriate control measures, namely a fall prevention device, fall arrest system or safe system of work, to eliminate or minimise the risk of a worker falling through the workshop shed roof. This failure exposed the injured worker, as well as other workers conducting tasks on the roof, to a risk of death or serious injury.
In sentencing, the Magistrate took into account the defendant’s early plea, cooperation during the investigative process, lack of prior convictions and financial circumstances. The Magistrate considered that, since the offence, the defendant had taken steps to remedy safety deficiencies in its systems that were highlighted by the incident and made continuing investments in work health and safety at its work sites.
The Magistrate accepted that the risk of falling should have been addressed through the implementation of a fall prevention device or fall arrest system. She considered the seriousness of the risk, being a fall of 4.5-4.8 metres, and had regard to the serious injuries suffered, including the psychological impact of the incident. The Magistrate also noted that there were no anticipated long-term consequences for the injured worker, including that he wasn’t prevented from returning to work in the future.
Her Honour took into consideration the continuing significant financial impacts of COVID-19 on the defendant. The defendant was currently operating at a loss due to the ongoing costs associated with staffing, including sub-contractors, material and resource disruptions, and impacts associated with ongoing border closure with New South Wales.
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Sections 19(1) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011