By Michael Selinger
Melbourne homebuilder Erfanian Developments (the Company) faced costs of nearly $126,000 after a number of unsafe work practices were discovered at a residential construction site the Company was in charge of.
In Worksafe Victoria v Erfanian Developments Pty Ltd (August 2018), a Worksafe inspector noted multiple breaches of the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The inspector, who visited the construction site on separate occasions, observed the following:
- Inadequate fall protection on a level one balcony which exposed workers to serious injury or death (Observation 1). A prohibition notice was issued in relation to this risk and was subsequently breached (Observation 2).
- An employee standing on a ladder placed 550mm from the edge of a level one balcony (Observation 3).
- An employee working on a 4.8 metre scaffold with missing hand rails, ladder access and an inadequate working deck, exposing workers to the risk of serious injury or death (Observation 4).
The Company also failed to provide OH&S training to an employee working on the construction site, and failed to provide a health and safety coordination plan for various sites in which the company was a principal contractor.
In relation to Observation 1, Observation 3, Observation 4 and the failure to provide safety plans, the company was charged under section 26 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (the OHS Act) with a failure to ensure the workplace and a means of entering and leaving the workplace was safe and without health risks.
With regard to Observation 2, the company was charged under section 112(5) of the OHS Act, which confers a penalty for failure to comply with a prohibition notice.
For failing to provide an employee with the required training, the company was charged under section 21 of the OHS Act, which requires employers to provide and maintain a safe workplace free from health risks.
Also, the Company was found in breach of regulations 5.1.12 and 18.104.22.168 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 for failing to provide the required training and safety plans, respectively.
Erfanian Developments, which did not appear at the hearing, was found guilty, convicted and ordered to pay fines totalling $120,000, plus $5,867 in costs.
Lessons for employers
This case demonstrates that companies can expect to receive significant penalties for systemic failures to comply with safe systems of work and notices issued by safety inspectors.
All employers, no matter what size, must ensure that their workplace is safe and free from health risks at all times.