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January 2020

Failure to protect against a fall risk

Failure to protect against a fall risk

Facts

Perry v PJ & T Motors Pty Ltd (2014)

On 26 July 2012, a 29-year-old worker sustained injuries to both arms when he fell from a 2.6 metre-high diesel tank where he was performing work. The worker was asked to remove the platform and ladder attached to the tank. During the process, he accidentally stepped onto the platform, causing it to tip and causing him to fall to the ground.

Judgment

The magistrate found that the defendant had failed to:

  • conduct an adequate risk assessment and hazard identification on the task of dismantling the diesel tank – in particular, one which would identify the risk of a fall from a height arising from the removal of the platform and ladder;
  • comply with section 10 of the defendant’s safety manual concerning working at heights, in particular the requirement to use a work platform for all work above 1.8 metres;
  • provide reasonable protection against a fall by the provision of a safe working platform, such as a safety cage mounted on a forklift; and
  • provide the worker with proper information, instruction and training in relation to undertaking safe work at heights. PJ & T Motors was convicted and fined $59,500 plus costs, after pleading guilty to a breach of section 19(1) of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 (SA).

Lessons

This case highlights why it is essential to train your workers to follow the safe work procedures that you have developed. There is no point in having a safety manual outlining the correct way for work to be performed if no one is checking that the processes are being implemented.

Similar prosecutions for breaching safety legislation can be avoided by:

  • preparing a safety management plan outlining how your business will identify hazards and control risks, including risk assessment methodology, responsibilities and timelines;
  • ensuring the plan is communicated to all stakeholders; and
  • regularly reviewing the plan to ensure that it is relevant and up-to-date.
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