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October 2020

Subcontractor is killed after fall from height

Subcontractor is killed after fall from height

Case

DPP v Seascape Constructions Pty Ltd (2020)

Seascape Constructions Pty Ltd (Seascape) is a construction company specialising in residential developments and was the principal contractor of a 2-storey residential dwelling.

Seascape engaged a subcontractor to complete carpentry work. Part of the job required the subcontractors to lay flooring sheets on the first floor, next to an unprotected edge of more than 2 metres. This exposed workers to a health and safety risk, as falling was likely to result in death or serious injury.

Further, the laying of the flooring sheets involved a health and safety risk of a person falling more than 2 metres, and therefore constituted ‘high-risk construction work’. The work required a safe work method statement (SWMS) to be prepared.

On 27 June 2017, a subcontractor fell 3.1 metres, which resulted in his death.

Seascape had failed to prepare an SWMS, or ensure one had been prepared, before allowing a subcontractor to perform work at the height.

Judgment

Seascape pleaded guilty to a breach of section 23(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) by failing to ensure its employees and other workers on site were not exposed to health or safety risks. The company failed to comply with Regulation 327(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Vic), which required it to ensure it had an SWMS and that an SWMS was in place prior to the laying of the floor sheets.

Seascape was, with conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $850,000.

Lessons

This case emphasises the importance of preparing an SWMS and ensuring it is in place for all high-risk construction work. All workers should be aware of the SWMS, and be trained and supervised to ensure work is performed in accordance with it.

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