Directors could face jail after worker death

By Jeff Salton on February 28th, 2017

Builder trying to board attic floor joists

Two family-owned businesses and their respective directors have been committed to stand trial following a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation into the death of a 62-year-old roofer.

If found guilty of the alleged offences, the directors can be fined up to $600,000 each and face maximum jail terms of five years. The companies can be fined a maximum of $3 million.

These are Queensland’s first category 1 prosecutions under work safety laws.

The defendants, Lavin Constructions Pty Ltd and Multi-Run Roofing Pty Ltd, and company directors Peter Raymond Lavin and Gary William Lavin, have been charged for contravening Section 19 (2) and/or s20 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Fell 6 metres from roof

The roofer, Whareheepa Te Amo, fell almost six metres to his death while working on the edge of a roof without protection. Mr Te Amo, who only started the job four days earlier, was one of five roofers working on an industrial shed at Lake Macdonald in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland on 29 July 2014.

The shed was part of a larger complex being re-furbished by Lavin Constructions Pty Ltd, the builder in control of the site, while Multi-Run Roofing Pty Ltd was engaged to fit roof sheeting.

It is alleged that Mr Te Amo was working several metres ahead of two scissor lifts being used for fall control and was not wearing a personal fall protection harness.

An indictment relating to four separate complaints under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 was presented at the Maroochydore District Court on 8 February 2017 against the defendants, who will stand trial in the Brisbane District Court. The matter is due for mention on 19 April 2017.

Head of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Dr Simon Blackwood said the Court would hear evidence that appropriate safety equipment was available on-site.

He warned other business-owners that falls from heights was a serious issue in many industries, particularly construction.

“Not following simple safety guidelines and taking unnecessary risks is just not on,” Dr Blackwood said.

“Had the available and correct controls been used, Mr Te Amo’s death would not have occurred.”

Simple solution

The Health & Safety Handbook has a full chapter dedicated to identifying and reducing fall risks (W2 Working at Heights), which can occur in many situations, not just from roofs, including simply using a ladder. Common examples of fall risks include:

  • climbing on top of trucks or loads;
  • climbing on storage racks;
  • reaching over barriers to perform work, e.g. from elevated work platforms;
  • working on the raised tines of a forklift without a compliant work cage;
  • working from an unprotected roof edge;
  • working on fragile roof sheeting or near skylights;
  • standing on a platform close to a pit or hole;
  • working on a mezzanine deck with a pallet loading gate without a safety gate or other fall protection, e.g. a safety harness;
  • working near an uncovered or unguarded excavation, such as a pit, stairwell or shaft; and
  • using a ladder.

Workers can also be exposed to a fall risk while performing certain tasks, such as replacing a light globe, accessing the top of a vehicle or changing an outdoor display sign.

Learn how to protect your workers from harm by reading up on the Working at Heights chapter in the Health & Safety Handbook.

Written in plain English by the legal experts at Holding Redlich, the Handbook is a must-read for any business wishing to care for its workers and avoid prosecution for breaching health and safety laws.

 





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