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Construction company in WA fined $38,000 in Ballantine fall case

Tuesday, 6 August, 2019 - 10:45
Incidents & prosecutions
Western Australia

A construction company has been fined $38,000 (and ordered to pay $8054 in costs) over an incident in which 17-year-old Wesley Ballantine died after he fell through a void in the roof of an internal atrium at the old GPO building in Forrest Place, Perth.

Valmont (WA) Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that persons who were not their employees were not exposed to hazards, and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court.

Valmont was the main contractor for the final stage of the project to refurbish the heritage landmark building and convert it into a retail store.

Part of this work was to construct a steel and glass atrium roof between floors two and three in the centre of the building.

On January 4 2017, workers were on night shift installing the glass panels in the atrium roof. At around 4.15am on January 5, Wesley Ballantine fell through an open void in the atrium framework to the ground floor around 12 metres below.

Valmont’s failure to ensure that its subcontractor fulfilled its obligations played a part in the events that took place early on 5 January, said WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh.

“Although it was not alleged that Valmont caused Wesley’s death, the company failed in its duty to ensure that its subcontractor was working safely, something the company was obliged to do under WA’s workplace safety laws,” Kavanagh said.

“The court heard a Valmont site supervisor had seen Wesley and his manager on the atrium steel framework not wearing safety harnesses and with no other suitable safety measures in place.

“They were called down and told to wear their safety harnesses and personal protective equipment, but there was no adequate fall injury prevention system for them to connect their harnesses to.

“The Valmont site supervisor did not follow his own company’s procedures for dealing with non-conformance and taking corrective action, so the company deserved to be prosecuted over their failure to protect workers.”

This case is the first of four before the courts that relate to this incident. Industrial Construction Services Pty Ltd (ICS) and a Director and a Manager of ICS have been prosecuted, and all three have been charged with causing Wesley Ballantyne’s death.