Incidents & Prosecutions

No Accident Needed to Receive $45,000 Penalty

Regulators can commence a safety breach prosecution even when there has been no accident or injury.

A principal contractor in Victoria was issued a $35,000 fine plus $10,112 in costs for breaching the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 by failing to ensure its subcontractor prevented falls from height risks to its workers.

Star (Australia) Construction Pty Ltd, which trades as Knight Building Group, had engaged V & R Solid Plastering Pty Ltd to install polystyrene and plaster exterior walls at two double-story townhouses in Caulfield North in Melbourne.

When WorkSafe Victoria inspectors visited the workplace, they observed V & R workers working at a 4.8-metre height near an unprotected edge.

On the second floor, the inspectors also observed an internal timber guard rail around a circular opening with no mid-rail and excessive spacing between uprights. This created a 6-metre fall risk through the first floor and into the basement.

V&R Solid Plastering was fined $25,000 plus $3,505 costs in April this year for its failure to prepare a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) and failure to provide a safe working environment for the high-risk construction work.

Star Construction was fined for failing to manage and control the fall risk, which created a risk of serious injury or death to workers on the site.

Company Fined $300,000 For Gas Bottle Explosion - April 2020

A Melbourne maintenance company has been convicted and fined $300,000 after a worker was permanently disabled in a gas bottle explosion in December 2017.

New Sector Engineering Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in court, to failing to provide a work environment that was safe and without risks to health, and failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

The court heard a New Sector Engineering ute caught on fire when gas bottles containing acetylene and oxygen, which were being transported from a supplier, exploded in the vehicle's fully enclosed toolbox. The court also heard the two gas bottles had been placed unsecured and on their side as the ute's enclosed canopy was too low to allow the worker to place them in an upright position.

This allowed acetylene vapour and air to mix and explode. The worker now requires a wheelchair and has memory loss as a result of multiple traumatic, physical and mental injuries.

The court heard that New Sector Engineering failed to have a system of work in place for the transportation of gas bottles, including adequate ventilation and ensuring the bottles were properly secured and upright when moved.

Employers and contractors transporting dangerous goods for their trade should ensure:

  • packages are loaded, secured, segregated, transported and unloaded safely

  • packaging is fit for purpose and not altered or damaged

  • flammable, oxidising or toxic dangerous goods are not transported in a passenger compartment or enclosed space not separated from it if the total quantity is more than 250kg(L)

  • toxic or flammable gas and Packing Group I goods are not transported in the passenger compartment or any other enclosed space if the total quantity is more than 50kg(L)

  • Gas bottles, both full and empty, should always be secured.

Solar Company Charged Over Fatal Fall - May 2020

WorkSafe has charged and fined a solar panel installation company with failing to control the risk of a fall from height at a residential property in Bendigo.

Solar 2.0 Pty Ltd has been charged with two breaches of section 21(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to health.

The charges relate to an incident on 30 November 2018, in which a 21-year-old male employee died after falling from a ladder while installing solar panels in the suburb of Kennington.

  • The extension ladder being used by Solar 2.0 employees to access to the roof was not fixed at the bottom;

  • Where it touched the guttering of the pergola, an item known as a 'gutter guard' was in place; and

  • No fall protection system was in place for work on the roof.

The company pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $30,000 and to pay costs of $14,197.

Fatality - Circular Saw - March 2020

A 52-year-old man died in hospital following an incident in which a circular saw cut into his leg during landscaping works at a Cobblebank property.

It is believed the labourer was using the saw to cut timber posts when the incident occurred.

Worker Hit by Steel Beam Dies - March 2020

A worker has died after being struck by a falling steel beam at Point Cook work site.

It's believed the beam fell on the 35-year-old man after it was hit by a roof truss being unloaded at the residential construction site about 12:20 pm.

Man Dies After Roof Fall

A 69-year-old painter has died in hospital after he fell through a carport roof at a Kilsyth home on Friday. He was taken to hospital in a critical condition where he later died.

Developer Fined For Serious Safety Failures

A property developer has been convicted and fined $125,000 for putting workers and the public at risk of serious injury or death.

Mainline Developments Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court to four charges over safety breaches during the construction of a residential complex at Narre Warren.

The court heard WorkSafe inspectors observed numerous and repeated safety breaches on six separate visits to the site between 15 January and 15 March 2018.

The safety breaches included:

  • A lack of controls to prevent workers falling from the balconies, first floors and roofs of the townhouses under construction and workers using sections of scaffolding with missing planks.

  • Multiple trucks were observed reversing into oncoming traffic to enter the site via a busy single lane road and unloading without any traffic management to reduce the safety risks.

  • The site had poor general housekeeping including open trenches, unhygienic toilet facilities without water or toilet paper and no meals area or facilities for workers.

  • Inspectors also found the site lacked a safe system of work in relation to electricity and had a number of tripping hazards from excess debris and general rubbish in access areas.

The court heard Mainline repeatedly failed to implement most of the reasonably practicable control measures identified in the 10 improvement notices issued by WorkSafe inspectors during the visits.

The company was fined $50,000 for failing to ensure the means of entering and leaving a workplace was safe; $40,000 for failing to provide a safe working environment; $25,000 for failing to comply with improvement notices; and $10,000 for failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks.

In sentencing, the judge took into account the company's two prior convictions from 2016 relating to working at height and traffic management issues.

Worker Dies in Scissor Lift Incident - Jan 2020

WorkSafe is investigating after a 37-year-old man died while painting inside a factory at Brunswick.

It' is believed the contractor was using an elevated work platform to reach windows near the factory's roof at about 1 pm when he struck a steel truss.

The man died at the scene.

Resources: WorkSafe Victoria has published a short 60-second video on overhead crush and electrocution hazards when using scissor lifts. Link below: