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Melbourne company fined $650,000 after deadly fall

Date: 
Thursday, 21 November, 2019 - 12:00
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Victoria

A construction company has been convicted and fined $650,000 after a labourer fell to his death during the building of a Melbourne high rise.

Concorp Group Pty Ltd (in liquidation) was found guilty by a jury in the County Court of two offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of failing to maintain a safe working environment and failing to provide instruction.

In sentencing, the judge imposed a $325,000 fine for each of the charges.

Concorp had been engaged to install concrete formwork as part of the construction of a multi-level apartment complex on Elizabeth Street in Carlton.

In February 2016 the 54-year-old was working alone on a wooden platform inside an open shaft on the fourth floor of the building when it overturned.

The court was told he fell about 12 metres to the ground and died on-site a short time later.

A WorkSafe investigation found the cantilevered platform had been constructed two days earlier by other labourers but was boarded up on orders of a supervisor amid concerns over a lack of fall protection.

The court heard no other employees were warned about the platform before the plywood blocking its entrance was later removed, and the worker entered the shaft to undertake drilling.

An independent engineer later found the likelihood of a fall occurring was almost inevitable.

“This death could have easily been avoided if other workers had been warned about the unsafe platform, or if the company had made readily available and cheap modifications to reduce the risk of a fall,” said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Julie Nielsen.

“Falls from height are one of the biggest killers of Victorian workers and WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute employers who do not control the associated risks.”

To prevent falls when working with formwork employers should:

  • Ensure a competent person produces a formwork design capable of supporting the expected dynamic and static loads.
  • Have systems in place to formally sign off a formwork deck as structurally sound, complete and safe for other trade workers to use as a work platform.
  • Provide employees undertaking construction work with site-specific training, including the onsite risks associated with formwork decks.
  • Ensure High-Risk Construction Work is not performed unless a Safe Work Method Statement is prepared and followed.
  • Use a fall arrest system, such as a catch platform or safety nets.