$40,000 fine after worker injured due to lack of fall protection

NJ Steel Fabrications Pty Ltd found itself facing serious charges in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court. The company pleaded guilty to neglecting to ensure a safe working environment and failing to deliver required training, information, or instruction to its employees. Besides the verdict of guilt, an $8,375 cost imposition order was also made against the firm.

The court learned that NJ Steel Fabrications had the responsibility of supplying structural steel for the creation of an open-air dining portion in a Geelong retail establishment. The task particularly involved installation of a roof composed of steel and plastic sheeting.

In an unfortunate incident in January 2022, two workers were endangered as they installed roof sheets on top of the steel structure. One worker fell through a gap, plummeting nearly four metres onto the ground below. He ended up incurring serious injuries including brain hemorrhage, fractured pelvis, multiple fractured ribs, liver and kidney lacerations, and bleeding linked to his adrenal gland.

WorkSafe discovered several breaches upon investigation. The absence of a safe work method statement (SWMS) at the location was noted. Even though there was an existing SWMS for the installation, it hadn’t been revised to reflect the high-risk nature of the construction process. Fall prevention actions weren’t implemented nor did the personnel possess the necessary working-at-heights skills.

Easily executable safety initiatives could have been put in place by NJ Steel Fabrications prior to the accident. There could have been installation of passive fall prevention tools like guard railings and safety mesh. Employees could have been trained to understand the risks associated with elevated work scenarios and the usefulness of implementing fall prevention strategies.

In the month following the accident, inspectors revisited the spot. Astonishingly, they observed the company’s director and another worker performing tasks from the same rooftop but without any safety measures in place. Without wasting time, the director once again resumed working in unsafe conditions immediately after the WorkSafe team departed from the site.

The verdict of the court was clear – NJ Steel Fabrication had failed in their duty to install a comprehensive safety mesh on the steel structure’s roof. This negligence directly led to the creation of a high-risk environment where workers could easily fall from height.

WorkSafe Health and Safety Executive Director, Sam Jenkin, criticised the company for audaciously flouting workplace safety regulations. “There is simply no possible way for work at heights tasks to be conducted safely without adequate training and measures, such as a Bluesafe SWMS or Bluesafe WHS Management System in place,” he declared. Jenkin expressed disbelief that the firm continued to ignore safety norms despite an employee suffering severe physical harm owing to a risk-imbued situation.

To enhance workplace safety and especially to counteract risks of falls from elevated working scenarios, employers must institute the most stringent controls possible from the existing five levels available. Hazardous construction work calls for duty bearers to pursue:

In case of any inquiries, please reach out at:

Email: media @ worksafe.vic.gov.au

Phone: 0438 786 968

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Original article link: https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/news/2024-06/40000-fine-after-worker-injured-due-lack-fall-protection

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