VIC: builder fined $100,000 for failing to control fall risks

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Tuesday, 25 October, 2022 - 12:00
Incidents & prosecutions

A building company that put workers in danger by repeatedly failing to control the risks of a fall from height, and also of electric shock or electrocution has been convicted and fined $100,000.

K1 Homes ID recently pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to two charges under section 26 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 of failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health and safety.

The offences occurred during the construction of multi-level townhouses on Brunswick Road, Brunswick.

The court heard that on 29 January 2019 the company was issued five improvement notices from WorkSafe inspectors, including for failing to control the risk of a fall from height. At the time, inspectors noted that unassembled scaffolding was present at the site.

Despite regular follow-up inspections, it was almost five months later before WorkSafe was satisfied that the improvement notices had been complied with.

On 23 September 2019, a WorkSafe inspector again attended the workplace and observed a worker working at height with no fall protection in place and issued a prohibition notice that prevented access to the area until fall protection was installed.

On 19 June 2020, a WorkSafe inspector again observed workers at the site working at height without fall protection.

Nine new improvement notices were issued, including two which related to a failure to control risks associated with falls from height and one in relation to the risk of electrocution, with multiple power leads piggybacking and exceeding 35 metres in total length. The leads were also hanging off structures and laying in water.

In sentencing the offender, the court stated that the absence of any injuries did not mitigate the gravity of the offending.

The court found that although no one was injured, the risks associated with falls from height and electrocution should be obvious to any builder and the safety issues were ongoing for 18 months.

So far in 2022, fines totalling $727,500 have been imposed against companies and directors in 22 WorkSafe prosecutions for failing to protect workers from the dangers of working from height.