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January 2020

Worker’s fall due to failure to comply with SWMS

Worker’s fall due to failure to comply with SWMS

WorkSafe v Vand Builders Pty Ltd (2016)

Facts

Vand Builders Pty Ltd was the principal contractor for the construction of residential premises and engaged another company to supply, fix and flush plasterboard at the workplace. Vand Builders had a safe work method statement (SWMS) addressing the high risk activity of working above 2 metres. Vand Builders’ subcontractors failed to comply with that SWMS by working at heights using incomplete scaffolding without edge protection. A worker fell approximately 2.1 metres, resulting in a broken bone and a fractured skull.

Judgment

The Court found that Vand Builders Pty Ltd had breached its duty of care under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004) in that it failed to ensure that persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer. In particular, it had not taken adequate steps to ensure its contractors followed the SWMS.

Vand Builders pleaded guilty and was fined $25,000 and had to pay costs of $4,000.

Lessons

Principal contractors must ensure that subcontractors comply with SWSMs. Steps to take include monitoring the work performed by subcontractors and checking that the SWMS is being followed, including stopping the work if it appears the SWMS is not being complied with by the subcontractor.

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