Asbestos company fined $150,000 after fatal veranda fall

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.
Tuesday, 28 February, 2023 - 12:30
Incidents & prosecutions
South Australia

An asbestos removal company based in Adelaide has been fined $150,000 after one of its workers fell through the roof of a veranda to his death.

The 58-year-old man employed by Allstar Asbestos Services was working on a crawl board placed over asbestos roof sheeting, which in turn was resting on timber rafters forming a veranda to a residential dwelling in March 2021.

The rafter immediately below the worker snapped, causing him to fall approximately 2.5 metres through the asbestos sheet roofing onto a concrete slab below the veranda, and he suffered a fatal brain injury.

Allstar was charged under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) following a SafeWork SA investigation.

The case was finalised in the South Australian Employment Tribunal following an early guilty plea.

It was alleged that Allstar had a health and safety duty to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its workers while they were at work.

The deceased worker had been employed by Allstar for almost a decade and had held a Class B Supervisor of Asbestos Removal Licence since December 2014.

A site inspection was conducted by Allstar’s sole director and one other employee at the time.

During the inspection, it was identified that a crawl board should be used following concerns over the condition of some rafters above the veranda.

The concerns were further addressed by the placement of a single Acrow prop, a wooden bearer and timber prop under the fascia beam.

Neither the Acrow prop, wooden beam nor timber prop were positioned under the rafter that failed, resulting in the tragic incident.

The safe work procedure undertaken by Allstar identified the use of a harness, but one was not provided to the worker for his use at the time of the incident.

In sentencing remarks, Deputy President Judge Rossi recorded a conviction against Allstar and imposed an initial fine of $500,000, which was reduced to $300,000 following a 40 per cent discount for an early guilty plea.

The fine was further reduced to $150,000 after taking into account Allstar’s inability to pay the full amount due to its limited financial position.

Allstar was ordered to pay costs of $3598 including a $405 Victims of Crime levy.

It has also been directed to produce an educational video outlining the fatal incident, what it has since done to minimise the risk of a recurrence and highlighting the importance of safe systems for working at heights.