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January 2020

Lack of communication and action results in injury to contractor

Lack of communication and action results in injury to contractor

Worksafe Victoria v Metricon Homes Pty Ltd (2017)

Facts

Metricon Homes Pty Ltd (the Company), a home-building company, was the principal contractor in the construction of a home in Bannockburn, Victoria. The Company engaged a roofing contractor for the supply and laying of tiles, who then engaged a subcontractor to tile the roof.

On 6 July 2015, a qualified building inspector conducted a mandatory inspection of the house frame. The inspector identified 10 issues, including that the load-bearing trusses in the alfresco area had not been installed. The inspector notified the Metricon site supervisor of the failed inspection, stating that no work on the roof should commence until the house frame had been approved by a building inspector.

On 7 July 2015, the load-bearing trusses had not arrived for installation, and the roofing contractors, unaware of the failed inspection report, commenced tiling works on the roof. The roof collapsed and the tiling subcontractor was hospitalised, suffering whiplash, concussion and abrasions from the tiles that landed on top of him.

Judgment

The Court found that the Company failed to formally communicate the outcome of the building inspection report to the contractors and allowed works to commence on the roof without building inspector approval. The Company failed to provide for employees a safe working environment that was without risk to health, in failing to provide and maintain systems of work that were, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.

The Court found the Company guilty and fined it $15,000, without conviction, ordering that it pay costs of $30,000.

Lessons

The case highlights the importance of effective communication with subcontractors. When responsible for all construction works and answerable to a building authority, a principal contractor must ensure that all subcontracting parties are updated on the progress and approval of works. In construction, following the directions of a qualified building inspector is imperative.

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