10:03 pm, Thursday 17 October, 2013
Photo: SafetyCulture Library
A construction company was fined $65,000 over a workplace fatality near Esperance.
The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that the workplace was safe for a person who was not an employee, and because of that failure, a worker died. They were fined in the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
According to investigations, the company began constructing a steel shed at Wye Farm in Salmon Gums in March 2011. Steel frame of the shed was erected in May and the wall cladding and roof sheeting was installed. Five workers were tasked to do the job.
On May 31, the roof sheets and skylights were put into place and tacked down with small screws to temporarily hold them. Workers proceeded to permanently fix the sheets in place after lunch.
One of the workers had to cross the roof to retrieve the screws for the polycarbonate skylights from the other side of the roof. He stepped from a zincalume sheet over the ridge and onto a polycarbonate sheet but the sheet gave way and he fell around seven metres to the ground and died.
The court heard that there was no safety mesh installed under the roof, despite the requirement on the plans to do so. There was also no edge protection installed. No harnesses were also available.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch expressed his dismay over the incident.
“It’s really disappointing that employers and persons in control of workplaces are still neglecting to protect workers against falls from height when falls are so easily preventable and it need not be difficult or costly to ensure that safe systems of work are in place,” Mr McCulloch said.
“In this case, there was no mesh, no edge protection and no harnesses – it really was just a tragedy waiting to happen.
“After the incident, the company bought two rolls of safety mesh that cost $80 a roll, along with two roofer’s kits containing static lines and harnesses for $450.00 each.
“This is not a huge outlay to prevent a fall, and unfortunately it was made too late for the worker who lost his life on this job.
“Falls are a significant cause of workplace death, and 17 Western Australian workers have died as a result of falls in the last four years. Many others have been seriously and permanently injured as a result of preventable falls.
“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.
“I urge any person or entity in control of a workplace that presents a risk of falls to ensure safe systems of work are in place and that this code is available in the workplace at all times.”