WA: Flooring Firm Fined over Sub-contractor’s Fall

The Rockingham Magistrates Court has fined a flooring company on June 10 over injuries suffered by a sub-contractor after falling through an unprotected stairwell.

The company pleaded guilty after failing to provide edge protection on the building site in Rockingham. It was fined $4000 by the Court.

The Court heard a private residence was being constructed in Rockingham in July 2007. The main building company had engaged the defendant to install wooden tiling on the home’s second storey floor.

The defendant’s sub-contractor climbed up the second storey through an internal stairwell without edge protection at the top, joining a painter who was also working at height.

The sub-contractor was in the process of laying the wooden flooring near the unprotected stairwell edge when he fell 2.4 metres to the ground floor.

As a result of the fall, the man suffered a cracked pelvis and a fractured vertebra.

According to WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne, the building company has already been prosecuted over the incident.

She said the defendant was also considered responsible because it had the means to limit access to the dangerous work area.

“It’s really disappointing to see a lack of fall protection in workplaces because falls are readily preventable and it need not be difficult or costly to ensure that suitable barriers or fall arrest systems are organised before a tragedy can occur,” Ms Lyhne said.

“Falls are one of the most significant causes of workplace death in the construction industry, and ten Western Australian workers have died in less than three years as a result of falls. A further 1295 are injured each year, many seriously and permanently.

“Edge protection had earlier been used around the stairwell, but it had been removed to make it easier to install the wooden flooring.

“It would have been practicable to have used another method of fall protection that would not have interfered with the work being performed.

“As it was, the unprotected void was a disaster waiting to happen, and unfortunately it did.

“Plenty of information is readily available on the prevention of falls, and I would expect any company involved in construction to be acutely aware of the need to prevent falls.

“This case is also a good demonstration of the fact that safety is the responsibility of anyone who has the ability to influence the work done.

“A code of practice on fall prevention has existed in WA for the past 19 years, with the original code being initiated in response to the number of fatalities being recorded in the construction industry at that time.

“The current code is comprehensive – providing information on the identification of common fall hazards and the use of fall arrest equipment – and I urge all employers with workplaces that may contain fall hazards to ensure copies of the code are readily available at their workplaces.”

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