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Employer receives $330,000 in fines for fatal fall

Falls from height are one of the deadliest health and safety risks that employers are continually failing to address.

This time, the director of a Victorian company has found himself in court for not taking obvious precautions that would have prevented a tragic and entirely avoidable workplace death.

John Paul Kenneally and his company Entire Shopfitting Pty Ltd were fined a total of $330,000 after the Melbourne County Court found both parties guilty for failing to implement fall prevention measures to protect its workers.

In May 2017, two of the company’s workers undertaking construction work for an extension to a new indoor children’s play centre were directed to work on a two-metre high mezzanine level to start framing works.

One of the workers positioned a stepladder at the edge of the mezzanine where the balustrade had been removed.

When the other worker climbed the ladder, one of the ladder’s legs went through a gap in the floor, tipping him over the edge of the mezzanine where he fell to the ground below.

The worker suffered serious injuries and later died in hospital.

Entire Shopfitting Pty Ltd was fined $300,000 for failing to provide or maintain systems of work that were safe, as well as failing to prepare a Safe Work Method Statement before the workers carried out the high-risk work.

John Paul Kenneally was personally fined $30,000 for failing to take reasonable care.

Julie Nielsen, Health and Safety Executive Director of WorkSafe said this incident was a tragic reminder of the catastrophic consequences that working from height can have.

“The combination of a ladder and an unguarded void is a deadly one. There is no excuse for failing to protect workers from falls from height. The risks are well known and WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute employers who do not control them,” she said.

WorkSafe says employers should take the following steps to prevent workers falling from heights:

  • Eliminate the risk by doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.
  • Use a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
  • Use a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system.
  • Use a fall arrest system, such as a catch platform or safety nets.
  • Use a fixed or portable ladder or implement administrative controls.
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