Victorian employer convicted, fined $500,000 - but unlikely to pay

Global Renewable Energy Solutions Pty. Ltd. (in liquidation) supplied and installed solar electrical systems. In June 2019, the company was installing a solar electrical system on a commercial sized shed at a site in Werribee South. On 7 June an employee working on the roof of the shed (approximately 4.5 metres high) when he fell through an unprotected skylight, fracturing his pelvis and spine.  

At the time of the incident, there was no perimeter guard railing on the roof or fall protection around the skylight to mitigate the risk to workers of falling more than two metres. A Safe Work Method Statement ('SWMS') prepared for the solar panel installation did not identify the presence of skylights in the roof of the shed.

WorkSafe's investigation revealed that the company had engaged in unsafe practices involving work at heights across five workplaces in total. It had failed to use fall protection at a further three workplaces at Cobram, Newham and Corio respectively and failed to perform work in accordance with a Safe Work Method Statement at a workplace in Truganina.

Her Honour noted that the offending was significant in that it occurred across five separate sites and that the risk was profound and obvious

Global Renewable Energy Solutions was found guilty in its absence of a number of charges under the OHS Act 2004 and the OHS Regulations 2017, and was with conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $500,000 plus VWA's costs of $5,613. However, being in liquidation, it is probably that this fine will never be paid. 

To check for more Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.  

Qld: Mushroom farm fined $120K after worker loses arm

A Ballandean mushroom farm and its director have been fined $120,000 and $10,000 respectively for exposing individuals to a risk of death or serious injury under Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011, following a 2019 workplace incident where a worker sustained horrific injuries. The man had been emptying mushrooms from purpose-built racks in the growing rooms when he turned on the winch system to extract used compost from the racks. His left arm was caught up and traumatically amputated below the elbow. While he tried to remove his arm, the winch drum re-engaged, and his right arm also got caught. The drum immediately stopped rotating.

The worker managed to free himself and call for help. A truck driver gave emergency first aid and applied a tourniquet before the arrival of emergency services. The worker was airlifted to a Brisbane hospital. A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found that the 30 year-old winch system was a custom-made piece of plant with no identifying make, model or serial number as it was built by family members. It also found there was no guarding on the winch drum to provide a barrier for workers operating it and there were numerous exposed parts of the plant that were nip and entrapment points accessible by workers.

The business was fined $120,000 plus costs of almost $1100, while the director was fined $10,000 plus costs of almost $600. No convictions were recorded. Source: Safety Solutions 

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