Construction company fined $65,000 over fall death
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A Great Southern construction company has been fined $65,000 over the death of a man who fell seven metres through a skylight in the roof of a shed under construction near Esperance.
As the entity in control of the workplace, Cochrane & Sons Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that the workplace was safe for a person who was not an employee and, by that failure, causing the death of a worker and was fined in the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
In March 2011, Cochrane & Sons began construction of a 28 metre long, 18 metre wide and seven metre tall steel shed at Wye Farm in Salmon Gums near Esperance.
On May 31, the steel frame of the shed had been erected and the wall cladding and roof sheeting (made up of zincalume sheets and polycarbonate skylights) was being installed, with five workers involved in that task.
During the morning, the roof sheets and skylights had been put into place and “tacked” down with a small number of screws to temporarily hold them in position. After lunch, the workers proceeded to permanently fix the sheets in place.
In the mid-afternoon, one of the workers needed to cross the roof to retrieve the screws for the polycarbonate skylights from the other side of the roof. In the process, he stepped from a zincalume sheet over the ridge and onto a polycarbonate sheet.
The sheet gave way and the worker fell around seven metres to the ground, suffering fatal injuries.
The court heard that safety mesh had not been installed under the roof, despite the requirement on the plans to do so. No edge protection had been installed on the building, and there were no harnesses available on the site for workers performing tasks at height.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch today expressed his disappointment that court cases involving falls from height were still arising.
“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.”
Further information on the prevention of falls can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877. The Code of Practice on the Prevention of Falls in Workplaces can be downloaded from the WorkSafe website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.
Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 9327 8744 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)
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