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January 2020

Temporary handrail provided inadequate protection

Safe Work (NSW) v Karimbla Constructions Services (NSW) Pty Ltd (2017)

Facts

Karimbla Construction Services (Karimbla) was the principal contractor on a residential building construction site. A concrete worker was working on site. After finishing work on the upper stories, he walked down an internal staircase that had a temporary timber handrail comprising a top rail only. The worker lost his footing and fell through the rail, falling 3 metres.

Judgment

The District Court found Karimbla was aware of the risks posed by inadequate edge protection. As there were simple and inexpensive measures available to avoid the risk and the gravity of the risk included a risk of death, Karimbla was convicted. These failures were amplified by Karimbla’s inadequate safe work practices, which focused too much on the tasks required and did not focus enough on the dangerous conditions of the worksite.

The company was fined $145,000 and ordered to pay the prosecutor’s costs of $27,000.

Lessons

The mere presence of a safe work method statement will not be sufficient. Principal contractors will need to ensure that a safe work method statement deals directly with on-site risks and contains the controls that will be put in place to manage those risks.

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