Company convicted, fined $850,000 following death of sub-contractor

Residential construction company, Seascape Constructions Pty Ltd, was last week convicted and fined $850,000 in the Melbourne County Court after a worker fell to his death on a building site in Melbourne’s north. The carpenter was killed in 2017 at a two-storey house under construction in Kalkallo.

Seascape Constructions pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing to ensure that persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety by failing to prepare and conduct work in accordance with a safe work method statement (SWMS). Seascape engaged the carpenter and a handyman via the website Gumtree to work at the site, including to lay flooring. 

The carpenter was lowering a compressed air nail gun by its air hose when he fell from an unprotected edge, landing on a concrete slab about 3.1 metres below. The 68-year-old died of head injuries at the scene.

The court heard the workers were not provided with a SWMS before commencing the high risk construction work or while performing the work and that no safety procedures or safe working methods were discussed.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said it was vital that all workers are appropriately trained, equipped and supervised to do their jobs safely. "Falls from height are a well-recognised safety hazard and are among the biggest killers of Victorian workers," Ms Nielsen said. "This death is a tragic reminder that WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute any employer who fails to do all they can to protect their workers' health and safety." 
Source: WorkSafe media release

Company fined after electric shock

In a typically complex contracting situation at a domestic construction site in Clayton South:

  • MAK Construction and Design Pty Ltd (MAK) was the principal contractor
  • MAK engaged Harbour Concreting Services (Harbour) to provide concreting services
  • Harbour engaged Primo Concrete Pumping Pty Ltd (Primo) to pump concrete
  • Primo subcontracted the concrete pumping task to G & I Developments Pty Ltd (G&I)

On 19 February 2018 a G&I employee attended the workplace with a 32 metre Volvo concrete boom and boom pump (the plant), registered to G&I. The G&I employee immediately saw it was too large and that he would not be able to safely operate it in the space available, given the proximity of overhead power lines and the location of a tree. He called Primo who instructed him to stop the pour whilst a smaller pump was sourced. Ultimately the smaller pump was cancelled by a Harbour employee, who assisted in manoeuvring the plant between the tree and the overhead powerlines to enable the pour to occur.

Whilst being packed up by the G&I employee, the plant made contact with overhead powerlines and injured an employee of Harbour, who was using the hose from the plant to clean tools. He received an electric shock and was taken to hospital by ambulance, but released a short time later. He did not suffer any permanent physical injury. Inspectors attended the workplace post incident and two Improvement Notices were issued, both of which were later complied.

G&I pleaded guilty to one charge under s21(1) of the OHS Act, of failing to ensure a safe work method statement (SWMS) was prepared before high risk construction work was performed, and that such work was performed in accordance with the statement. Two further charges relating to plant exposed to electrical hazards and risks to other persons were withdrawn. The company was without conviction fined $30,000, plus costs of $4,248.

To find out whether there are any new prosecutions before next week, check WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

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