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January 2020

Two workers are seriously injured when a scaffold collapses

Two workers are seriously injured when a scaffold collapses

SafeWork NSW v MPMG FM Pty Limited (2018)

Facts

Spotless Facility Services contracted MPMG FM Pty Limited (Company) to manage facilities maintenance at Heathcote High School for a painting job.

The Company identified that workers were required access to heights of more than 4 metres for approximately 40% of the work.

The Company determined that elevated work platforms (EWPs) would be used for the highest parts of the work, with scaffolds to be erected where ladders were impractical.

However, the Company failed to document the high access areas or provide EWPs.

In March 2016, the Company directed a worker to erect a scaffold, but failed to provide them with any instructions or
training. Further, the scaffold was missing outriggers and safety pins, and it was not inspected after being erected.

Approximately a month later, the scaffold collapsed, seriously injuring two workers.

Judgment

The District Court took into account numerous mitigating factors, such as:

  • the lack of prior convictions for any offences;
  • the Company’s guilty plea; and
  • the Company demonstrating signs of rehabilitation and remorse.

The Court convicted the Company, imposing a fine of $90,000 (reduced from $120,000 to reflect the guilty plea) and ordering it to pay the prosecutor’s costs of $40,000.

Lessons

Ensure you have implemented safe systems of work to prevent, or reduce the likelihood of, workers sustaining injuries in carrying out their work. Workers should be appropriately trained for any tasks that pose a risk to health and safety (such as the erection of scaffolds) and all protective measures should be adequately inspected to ensure they have been properly implemented.

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