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January 2020

A company ignoring a risk results in a worker sustaining serious injuries

A company ignoring a risk results in a worker sustaining serious injuries

SafeWork NSW v Deicorp Pty Ltd (2018)

Facts

On 14 July 2015, Deicorp Pty Ltd (Company) and Rock Form Group Pty Ltd (Rock Form) entered into an agreement for Rock Form to supply, erect and dismantle all formwork on the Company’s construction site.

On 19 November 2015, a scaffolding engineer alerted the Company’s foreperson of gaps between the scaffolding and the building. The Company’s foreperson declined to remedy the risk as, in his view, it would get in the way of the bricklayers. The engineer later sent a follow-up email to the Company’s foreperson, however the foreman had gone on annual leave so the Company did not receive this email. Unsecured plywood was later placed over the gaps.

On 12 January 2016, an employee of a subcontractor engaged by Rock Form was working on the third level of the construction building. The employee stepped on the plywood and, as it was unsecured, fell to the first floor of the building, sustaining serious injuries.

Judgment

The Company and Rock Form both pleaded guilty to the charges. Despite acknowledging their remorse and that it was their first offence, the Court found the two entities had failed to:

  • implement appropriate measures to control the risk;
  • set up exclusion zones to restrict access;
  • minimise the size of the gap;
  • provide proper training and induction to the employee about the risk; and
  • undertake proper inspections of the workplace before work was carried out.

The Company was fined $75,000, while Rock Form was fined $127,500 and ordered to pay costs of $62,500.

Lessons

You must ensure you undertake thorough investigations of your workplace. Where a risk is identified or brought to your attention by a third party, you must take all reasonable steps to remove that risk. If a risk cannot be removed, consider all avenues to at least reduce the risk. Further, all risks should be recorded and workers must be made aware of them through an induction process.

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