Scaffolding company fined after worker sustained fall injuries

A scaffolding company has been fined $22,000 over an incident in which a worker was injured when he fell through an insufficiently protected void on a construction site.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe work environment causing serious injuries to the worker. The scaffolding company was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court on Friday.

Investigations revealed that there was a void in the first floor of the central unit. Scaffolding was erected inside, but not the entire void. The remainder of the void was only covered by particleboard not supported by scaffolding.

Thinking that it was supported by scaffolding, the victim stepped into the particleboard. It gave way under his weight and he fell 2.7 metres to the ground floor concrete slab. The victim sustained fractures to his skull, ribs, spine and shoulder.

The void was quickly covered with planks after the incident. The same hazard was discovered in two other units, and these voids were also covered with planks.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Les McCulloch on Tuesday said that the case should be a reminder of the importance of taking measures to prevent falls.

“Falls are almost always readily preventable, and it need not be difficult or costly to ensure that safe systems of work are in place at all times,” said Mr McCulloch.

“This employer failed to ensure that the voids in the workplace were adequately protected to prevent a fall of a substantial distance, contrary to workplace safety laws.

“Falls are one of the most significant causes of workplace deaths in the construction industry, and 16 Western Australian workers have died as a result of falls in the last four years.

“In this case, the fall – and the suffering of the worker – could have been avoided simply by ensuring that a more effective method of covering the void was used.

“Subsequent to this incident, the employer covered the voids in all three of the units under construction with planks, but this could just as easily have been done from the outset.

“It was unfortunately too late for the worker who fell and suffered serious injuries.

“A Code of Practice on fall prevention has existed in WA for more than 20 years. The current code is comprehensive, providing information on the identification of common fall hazards and the correct use of fall arrest and prevention equipment.

“I urge any employer in control of a workplace that presents a risk of falls to ensure this code is available in the workplace at all times.”

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