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January 2020

Company director dies after falling from unsafe roof

Company director dies after falling from unsafe roof

Worksafe Victoria v W. F. Montague Pty Ltd (2018)

Facts

A division of W.F. Montague Pty Ltd (Company) specialises in temperature-controlled storage and inventory management. The Company contracted Commercial and Industrial Refrigeration Services Pty Ltd (CIRS) to maintain and service its refrigeration equipment at multiple sites across Victoria.

At one of the Company’s sites, the roof was in poor condition, with corrosion across the roof and guttering. Despite identifying the poor condition of the roof, the Company took no steps to provide suitable walkways, mesh, safety railings or anchor points for anyone who required roof access. When the director of CIRS was inducting a subcontractor on the roof, part of the roof gave way and the director fell approximately 7.4 metres. He later died in hospital from his injuries.

Judgment

Due to a failure to reasonably provide a safe working environment for the deceased, the Company was found to have breached sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic). This failure was aggravated by:

  • the Company being aware the roof was in poor condition and posed a safety risk;
  • that safety risk having the potential to result in serious injury; and
  • the Company failing to take any measures to mitigate the risk, such as installing suitable walkways, mesh, safety railings or anchor points.

The Company pleaded guilty to the charges, was convicted and received a $380,000 fine.

Lessons

Once a risk of harm has been identified, take immediate steps to implement a safe system of work to prevent, or reduce the likelihood of, the risk of harm.

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