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May 2021

2-metre fall through a void results in death

2-metre fall through a void results in death

The Case

SafeWork NSW v CCP Remedial Pty Ltd (2021)

Construction repair service company CPP Remedial (CPP) engaged Macfin Building Solutions (MBS) to undertake waterproofing work on a split-level residential brick home with a flat roof. Four workers of MBS were involved in the repairs. A worker fell approximately 2 metres through a void onto a rock garden. The void was only covered with a green shade cloth and wire mesh. The fall resulted in the worker sustaining fatal injuries.

The Verdict

The Court heard that MBS conducted a site inspection 2 weeks before the incident. The inspection revealed the void and other penetrations in the roof, but they were assessed as low risk. At the time of the incident there was no adequate cover or fall prevention device, such as handrails or edge protection, to protect the risk of workers falling through any other penetrations in the roof.

CPP created a safe work method statement (SWMS), which identified the risk of a person falling more than 2 metres and the use of administration controls and harnesses, but failed to provide the workers on site with access to the SWMS prior to the incident. It was found that while CPP had significant systems in place, it wrongly delegated its work health and safety duty to MBS. Both CPP and MBS pleaded guilty to breaching sections 19 and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) in failing to comply with its primary duty of care, and exposing workers to the risk of death or serious injury.

MBS was sentenced to pay a fine of $150,000, following a 25% reduction for entering a guilty plea. CPP was sentenced to pay a fine of $125,000, following a 25% reduction for entering a guilty plea. CPP was also ordered to pay the prosecutor’s costs of $32,000.

The Lessons

For any high-risk construction work, you must ensure that an SWMS is prepared and appropriate controls in the SWMS are implemented. Any fall from height through a void in excess of 2 metres should be considered a high risk.

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