WORKER PARALYSED: WATERTANK SOLUTIONS FINED

Watertank Solutions Victoria, which undertakes installation, repair, and servicing works in the Ballarat and Western Region, was hired to repair and replace the roof of a water tank in Yendon. The concrete tank being worked on was about 2150mm deep, with the roof's highest point 3150mm above the tank's base. The tank's edge was 450mm above the ground, and the rafters extending from this edge were clearly rotted and needed replacement.

During the course of their work, two employees fell, with one sustaining serious injury leading to paraplegia.

At the time of the incident, one worker was on an aluminium plank near the top of the tank's roof, removing screws. Another was on the ground next to the tank, providing tools and pulling away metal sheets. As they both tried to free a metal sheet, they fell. The employee on the roof landed on his shoulder, while the employee on the ground fell headfirst into the tank, suffering serious head and neck injuries that resulted in paraplegia.

A WorkSafe investigation subsequently found the company had failed to provide a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) for the high-risk task, which is required for high-risk construction work. An Improvement Notice was issued, and the company later complied by creating the necessary SWMS documents.

The Authority stated the company should have used safer methods such as portable scaffolds, fixed or portable ladders, perimeter guardrails, or fall arrest harnesses to prevent the fall. The Court found Watertank Solutions' safety failings to be of moderate to high severity, as the significant risk of injury associated with working at height is well-known, and guidance is readily available.

One employee's Victim Impact Statement highlighted the severe consequences, including paraplegia, depression, and anxiety, underscoring the gravity of the safety breach. The company pleaded guilty, showed remorse, cooperated with WorkSafe, and had no prior convictions. The Court considered these factors but emphasized the seriousness of the offense. The company was fined $45,000 and ordered to pay $3,960 in costs.

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