Builder convicted after plasterer suffered injuries from fall

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Photo: SafetyCulture Library

A builder was convicted and fined $25,000 and costs of $4,000 today for breaching the OHS Act 2004 in relation to an incident in 2014 where a plasterer suffered severe spinal injuries and a fractured skull after falling from a work platform.

The company pleaded guilty in the Geelong Magistrates Court today for failing to ensure that persons other than its employees were not placed at risk.

The worker got injured in September 2015 while working at a construction site in Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula. He was working on a work platform made of steel scaffolding. The platform had no protective guard rails.

More than 40 sheets of plaster were delivered to the site by a truck but the vehicle became bogged and so it was decided that the sheets will be unloaded manually from the ground to the platform and then to workers on a second-floor balcony so they could be taken inside. As one of the sheets were being moved, it snapped and the subcontractor fell through the gap between the platform and the townhouse. He landed head first, fracturing his skull and broke his spine.

The court heard that the builder had a Safe Work Method Statement but the work had not been performed in accordance with the statement.

The worker in his Victim Impact Statement said the incident left him with several physical and emotional problems. He said he needed crutches and wheelchair to move and had difficulty engaging in his family’s social activities.

“I have no sense of pride any more, struggling to get my head around the fact that I have a permanent disability for the rest of my life,” he said in his statement.

“The company had prepared a Safe Work Method Statement but had failed to follow it, and the result has been devastating for this man and his family,” said WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams.

“Falls from heights are among the most frequent causes of death and serious injury in the construction sector. That is Safe Work Method Statements are required. But they are not worth the paper they are written on if they are not adhered to.”

She said businesses should ensure the safety of their workers at all time.

“Working from heights is a real risk unless appropriate fall protection measures are in place. In this case, guard rails and edge protection should have been provided for all sides of the work platform where there was a risk of a fall,” said Ms. Williams.

“Every single business in Victoria is required to ensure the work that they are undertaking does not put workers at risk. On this measure, the company failed completely.”

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