Scaffolding company fined $22,000 over worker fall

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A company that supplies and erects scaffolding has been fined $22,000 over an incident in which a worker was injured when he fell through an insufficiently protected void on a construction site.

Access Matrix Scaffolding pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing serious harm to the worker and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court on Friday.

In October 2009, Access Matrix was responsible for all scaffolding work being carried out on a construction site in Scarborough where a triplex was being built.

There was a void in the first floor of the central unit, and scaffolding had been erected inside part, but not all, of the void. The remainder of the void was covered by particleboard not supported by scaffolding.

A worker stepped onto the particleboard, assuming it was supported by scaffolding, and it gave way under his weight. He fell 2.7 metres onto the ground floor concrete slab, sustaining fractures to his skull, ribs, spine and shoulder.

Although the particleboard was intended to be used as flooring, it was in this case spanning a greater distance than specified by the manufacturer. This was clearly marked on the underside of the particleboard.

After this incident, the void was quickly and easily covered with planks. The same hazard was found in the other two units, and these voids were also covered with planks.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today the case should serve as a reminder of the importance of having measures in place to prevent falls.

"Falls are almost always readily preventable, and it need not be difficult or costly to ensure that safe systems of work are in place at all times," Mr McCulloch said.

"This employer failed to ensure that the voids in the workplace were adequately protected to prevent a fall of a substantial distance, contrary to workplace safety laws.

"Falls are one of the most significant causes of workplace death in the construction industry, and 16 Western Australian workers have died as a result of falls in the last four years.

"In this case, the fall - and the suffering of the worker - could have been avoided simply by ensuring that a more effective method of covering the void was used.

"Subsequent to this incident, the employer covered the voids in all three of the units under construction with planks, but this could just as easily have been done from the outset.

"It was unfortunately too late for the worker who fell and suffered serious injuries.

"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 and the correct use of fall arrest and prevention equipment.

"I urge any employer in control of a workplace that presents a risk of falls to ensure 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 at no cost from the WorkSafe website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.

Media contact:
Caroline De Vaney
9327 8744 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only).
caroline.devaney@commerce.wa.gov.au
Follow @WorkSafeWA on Twitter

WorkSafe
Media release
08 May 2012

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