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January 2020

Construction company fails to control risks

Construction company fails to control risks

WorkSafe Victoria v Leo Duynhoven Pty Ltd (2016)

Facts

A construction company twice failed to properly identify workplace risks or to provide adequate safety structures for a safe system of work.

In the first incident, the company’s workers were replacing a fragile clear polycarbonate sheet of roofing material in a residential dwelling. There was no fall protection installed beneath the roofing and the workers were not wearing safety harnesses. As a result, one of the workers fell through the roofing and suffered injuries.

In the second incident, two workers were removing a chimney 3 metres above the ground. Neither worker was wearing a safety harness. This incident was a near miss, i.e. it did not result in an injury, but it had the potential to do so.

Judgment

In relation to the first incident, the Court found the company failed to:

  • identify the hazard of working with fragile roofing material;
  • develop and apply any appropriate risk controls; and
  • control the risk of falling from a height by installing a suitable fall arrest system.

In relation to the second incident, the Court found that the company had failed to ensure travel restraint systems, such as harnesses.

The company pleaded guilty in the Magistrates’ Court without conviction and was fined $2,500 for the first incident and $750 for the second incident.

Lessons

These decisions highlight your duty to adequately assess the risks of a work environment and to develop appropriate strategies to respond to those risks.

If your business conducts work at heights, you will need to develop appropriate risk control measures, which may include travel restraint systems (such as harnesses) or erecting scaffolding below fragile worksites.

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