On 24 January 2023, a roofing company and its site supervisor were sentenced in the Richlands Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with their health and safety duties pursuant to sections 19(1) and 28(b) of the Act respectively.
The defendant company operated a roofing business and was engaged to replace a roof on a Warehouse located in Wacol, commencing between late August and early September 2022.
On 28 September 2020, the defendant company’s site supervisor performed an induction for three workers who would be operating the crane at the worksite. The induction included a walkthrough of the Warehouse, and each worker was required to sign a Safe Work Method Systems and Risk Assessment document (‘SWMS’).
The three workers were to use the crane to lift new roof sheets from the ground up onto the roof in preparation for their installation.
At approximately 8:30am, one of the workers was up on the warehouse roof and stepped off the roof and plyboard and onto an area that was covered by sarking but no steel wire security mesh. The worker fell approximately 6.63 metres through the sarking onto the concrete floor of the warehouse below. The worker suffered serious injuries including three pelvis fractures, a compressed T12 vertebra, two fractured wrists, perforated spleen and bowels and head lacerations.
The investigation into the incident revealed that whilst required by the SWMS, control measures were not in place to prevent workers from falling from the live edge in the area where the incident occurred.
The defendant company failed to manage the risk of falling through the sarking by failing to ensure proper controls had been implemented at the workplace such as implementing exclusions zones with visual barriers or requiring workers to use harnesses, before work commenced on the roof.
The site supervisor in particular, being the worker identified on the SWMS as the “responsible person”, failed to ensure that the SWMS were properly implemented and followed by all workers. These control measures would have mitigated the risk.
In sentencing, Magistrate Shearer considered all of the facts and circumstances of the offending and the injuries suffered by the injured worker. His Honour also took into account the defendant’s timely plea of guilty, together with the purpose of the legislation.
In determining culpability of the defendant company and site supervisor, His Honour remarked that the work undertaken by the worker posed an obvious and foreseeable risk of serious injury or death, and that insufficient attention had been given to ensure processes were followed. Magistrate Shearer observed that barriers or nets should have been used, and that other safety procedures were not complied with. His Honour considered that it would not have been onerous on the defendant company to ensure that these measures were complied with and that if the site supervisor was not able to properly ensure that the SWMS were complied with, he should not have been working in that role.
The serious nature of the injuries suffered by the worker were noted, with His Honour observing that the worker was fortunate to not have died as a result of the fall.
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Section 32 and 19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011
Section 32 and 28(b) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011