Solar installer fined after ignoring seven metre fall risk

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, 18 April, 2023 - 12:30
Incidents & prosecutions

An electrical services company in Victoria has been convicted and fined a total of $32,000 in relation to unsafe work practices on a site in Geelong.

Sentenal Technologies was sentenced in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The company was convicted and fined an aggregate $30,000 for failing to provide a safe system of work and failing to ensure a safe work method statement was in place for high-risk construction work.

Sentenal Technologies was also fined $2000 without conviction for failing to comply with a notice under section 9 of the OHS Act and was ordered to pay an additional $7890 in costs.

The court heard that in September 2021, a WorkSafe inspector observed five of the company’s workers removing solar panels from the roof of an industrial warehouse in Corio, the tallest part of which was seven metres high.

None of the workers were wearing available harnesses and there was no edge protection because, although guard rail footings had been installed, no railings were present.

Despite the work constituting high-risk construction work due to the risk of a fall from a height greater than two metres, the workers indicated a safe work method statement had not been prepared due to difficulties with an online application.

An investigation found WorkSafe inspectors had previously discussed fall risks with the company on nine occasions and issued improvement or prohibition notices on five of those.

The court heard that Sentenal Technologies also failed to comply with a WorkSafe order to produce all Safe Work Method Statements regarding the company’s work at the Corio warehouse.

WorkSafe Victoria director of health and safety, Narelle Beer, said the risks and too often deadly consequences of falls from height were notorious.

“It beggars belief that safety measures such as harnesses and guard rails were available to these workers but were not being used at the time,” Beer said.

“WorkSafe will continue to take strong action against any duty holder who fails to control the very real risk of serious injury or death from working at height on construction sites.”