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January 2020

Double trouble: Company breaches safety obligations at two worksites

Double trouble: Company breaches safety obligations at two worksites

WorkSafe Vic v Erfanian Developments Pty Ltd (in liquidation) (2019)

Facts

Erfanian Developments (company) developed and sold residential apartments. The company was involved in two construction sites as the principal contractor where both worksites were under the company’s management and control. WorkSafe inspected both sites between August 2017 and January 2018, and observed significant work health and safety breaches. WorkSafe commenced ex parte proceedings against the company.

Judgment

The Melbourne Magistrate’s Court found the company in breach of its safety obligations at both construction sites.

At the first construction site, the Magistrate found the company in breach for failing to conduct a risk assessment of the installed scaffolding. Workers were using unsafe and incomplete scaffolding with missing hand rails and kick boards. The incomplete scaffolding exposed workers to a serious risk of falling from heights.

The Magistrate’s Court also found the means of entering and exiting the worksite as unsafe due to the risk of workers tripping on steps or coming into contact with harmful objects.

The Magistrate’s Court found the company had failed to provide a safe workplace on both worksites due to unguarded stair voids.

Workers were also found to be at risk of falling due to the unsecured ladders being used in the unguarded stair voids. The Court found the company’s failure to install a perimeter guardrail on the first floor balcony resulted in workers being exposed to a risk of falling more than 2 metres.

The company was fined $80,000 and ordered to pay costs of $4,115.

Lessons

Employers need to remember they owe work health and safety duties to all workers in a workplace. Even though the company was not directly responsible for installing the scaffolding, it was still responsible for providing a safe workplace, and this included conducting hazard assessments on the scaffolding.

Open voids and unguarded edges are common and dangerous risks at worksites that can be removed by installing safety measures.

Companies that fail to reduce these risks will face significant fines when found in breach.

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