The death of a labourer in a workplace accident has seen a business fined $650,000 in court for breaching safety rules. But the penalties may be hard for regulators to recoup.
SafeWork Victoria revealed that the County Court last week found construction company Concorp Group Pty Ltd guilty on two counts of breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The charges related to the February 2016 death of an unidentified man while working on a multi-storey apartment development on Elizabeth Street in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton.
According to the regulator, Concorp was contracted to install concrete framework as part of the construction project, when the man fell around 12 metres from a wooden platform on the fourth floor of the building. He died on the scene a short time later.
WorkSafe investigators determined that the cantilevered platform had been constructed only two days before the accident, but it was boarded up with plywood after a supervisor expressed concerns about the platform’s lack of fall protection.
However, no other employees working on the site were alerted to the situation, and the plywood blocking access to the platform was subsequently removed before the worker entered.
“An independent engineer later found the likelihood of a fall occurring was almost inevitable,” the regulator said.
WorkSafe’s Julie Nielsen said it was basic safety failures that cost a man his life.
“This death could have easily been avoided if other workers had been warned about the unsafe platform, or if the company had made readily available and cheap modifications to reduce the risk of a fall,” she said.
“Falls from height are one of the biggest killers of Victorian workers, and WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute employers who do not control the associated risks.”
While the court imposed a penalty of $325,000 for each of two charges, Concorp was placed into liquidation on 6 March this year, according to ASIC records.
Safe Work Australia figures estimate there have been 138 work-related deaths in Australia so far in 2019 (as at 7 November).
According to SafeWork Victoria, there are a number of things that employers should do whenever formwork is being used at any workplace or site.
- Ensuring a competent person produces a formwork design capable of supporting the expected dynamic and static loads.
- Having systems in place to formally sign off a formwork deck as structurally sound, complete and safe for other trade workers to use as a work platform.
- Providing all employees undertaking construction work with site-specific training, including in relation to the on-site risks associated with formwork decks.
- Ensuring high-risk construction work is not performed, unless a Safe Work Method Statement is prepared and followed.
- Using a fall arrest system, such as a catch platform or safety nets.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.