NSW: Developer Fined After Worker Falls from Scaffolding

Source: Safety Culture

A property developer and its director have been fined a total of $133,000 after a labourer fell about six metres to his death from scaffolding.

The company was redeveloping a property at Cabramatta in August 2007 which included reroofing, repainting and new plumbing.

The company and the director pleaded guilty to two charges each in the Sydney Industrial Court to breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000.

On 27 August 2007, a 63-year-old labourer sustained fatal injuries when he fell 5.8 metres from scaffolding while he was removing paint and plumbing from a 2-storey building.

The man was standing on poorly-built and unsafe scaffolding while using an electric drill to remove plumbing pipes from the wall of the building when he fell.

It was found that the company and its director had failed on numerous counts to supply a safe working environment for their workers.

The scaffolding was not properly built and had no fall protection such as handrails.

The labourer was not provided with, or instructed to wear, any safety equipment such as a helmet or a harness. He was inexperienced and had not received adequate training, instruction or information from the defendants.

No risk assessment had been carried out.

In handing down her findings Justice Frances Backman described the system of work as "patently unsafe" and construction of the scaffold as "seriously deficient".

She said the risk of a fall was obvious.

Her Honour said falls from heights occur with alarming regularity and "employers engaged in work at construction sites must be put on notice that inattention to safety matters which expose the workers at the site to danger will be met with severe sanctions".

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.

"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.

"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.