Second largest fine in NSW history for construction company’s work safety breaches

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Photo: SafetyCulture Library

A construction company based in Sydney, including its director has been given the second largest work health and safety fine in New South Wales in relation to the death of a worker at a construction site in Hurstville.

The company and its director were fined $425,000 and $85,000 respectively following the death of a 55-year-old bricklayer after he fell five metres through a penetration at the site.

The incident happened in 2014. Investigations conducted after the incident found that the penetration has been covered with plywood but was not secured to the concrete slab.

The company was charged for failing to comply with its duty under section 19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW). The director was charged with a breach of the Act for failing to comply with his duty under section 27 of the Act.

“They should have ensured the penetration was securely covered and inspected the plywood cover to ensure it was attached to the concrete slab prior to work commencing,” said SafeWork NSW Executive Director Peter Dunphy.

“They were also aware of the risk and how to address it after being directed on numerous occasions by SafeWork NSW inspectors to securely cover unguarded penetrations at the site.”

Mr. Dunphy said their investigation revealed that at least four workers could have fallen through the penetration on the day of the worker’s fatal fall.

“A family is now without a father and husband,” said Mr. Dunphy.

“Such a serious offence justifies the penalty imposed by the court which will send a strong message to others in the industry thinking of ignoring work health and safety laws.”

There were over 30,000 injuries and 67 deaths in NSW workplaces in 2013/14. The construction industry accounted for more than 10 percent of all injuries. The industry is now considered one of the State’s highest risk.

“We assist, engage and collaborate with workplaces across NSW to ensure positive work health and safety, workers compensation and return to work outcomes,” said Mr. Dunphy.

“During 2013/14, we provided more than $500,000 in safety rebates to small businesses and businesses in high-risk industries, including the house construction industry to reduce the number of injuries and improve safety culture within the industry.

“We also visited more than 26,000 NSW businesses to assist them in tailoring health and safety solutions to their workplaces.

“Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of workers should be a business’s top priority. I encourage NSW businesses to contact their local SafeWork NSW office and organize an advisory visit from one of our safety and return to work experts.”

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