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January 2020

Failure to consult relevant standards or a competent person

Failure to consult relevant standards or a competent person

WorkSafe Victoria v Designer Built Homes Pty Ltd (2015)

Facts

Designer Built Homes is a building company that was engaged to erect a hoarding along the perimeter of a building site. The site ran alongside a pedestrian footpath.

The hoarding was made out of solid plywood, but was attached to crumbling asphalt. On 12 August 2013, a pedestrian was walking along the footpath in rainy and windy conditions. The hoarding fell and struck the pedestrian.

Judgment

The Magistrates’ Court found that in erecting the hoarding, the builder failed to:

  • consult a relevant standard, such as the Australian Standards, for hoardings; or
  • use a competent person, such as a structural engineer, to check that the hoarding was structurally safe.

The Court convicted the business for failing to undertake a risk assessment of its activities. If it had done so, it is likely it would have met its obligation to ensure that members of the public were not exposed to risks to their health or safety. The Court imposed a fine of $12,000.

Lessons

You always need to consider the risk of exposure to third parties, such as members of the public, particularly if their activities will impact on pedestrian zones. Further, you must consider whether any relevant standards should be applied or whether an expert consultant, i.e. a competent person, needs to be engaged.

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