$2 million fine issued for fatal scaffolding collapse

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Wednesday, 7 December, 2022 - 11:30
Incidents & prosecutions
New South Wales

A Sydney scaffolding company has been fined $2 million – the highest penalty ever recorded for a SafeWork NSW offence – over a fatal scaffolding collapse in Sydney.

On 1 April 2019, a steel modular scaffold collapsed at a construction site in Macquarie Park Sydney, crushing two workers. An 18-year-old worker was killed while another suffered life-changing injuries, said the head of SafeWork NSW Natasha Mann.

Synergy Scaffolding Services plead guilty to a category 1 offence under section 31/19(2) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 in the NSW District Court.

As part of the plea, Synergy accepted there was no vertical bracing for the scaffolding where there should have been, as per Australian Standards.

Synergy also failed to advise the principal contractor that the loads placed on the scaffold exceeded the amount of weight the scaffold could safely hold, with the scaffold overloaded at the time of the incident, according to Mann

“In sentencing, the judge noted the collapse of the scaffold was caused by a culmination of events and the case should serve as a telling reminder that unsafe acts on a building site can and do lead to catastrophic consequences,” said Mann, who pointed out “operation scaff safe 2022” is currently underway.

“It is a six-month campaign with inspectors out in force across NSW checking scaffolding installations on construction sites. In particular, they will be looking to see that installations are applying the new Scaffold Industry Safety Standard which was published in March of this year.

“Scaffolding requires constant attention and coordination. The industry standard sets out practical guidance that can be used by principal contractors and scaffolders to effectively manage safety risks through all phases of a construction project.

“Inspectors can issue on-the-spot fines for non-compliance. Individuals may be fined up to $720 and businesses up to $3600,” she said.

Synergy Scaffolding Services has the right to appeal the penalty.