1 min read

The height of danger; the danger of heights

The dangers of working at height without proper controls was brought before the courts again in a prosecution by WorkSafe Victoria of a fabrication and general maintenance business, after one of its workers fell from an unsecured platform at Melbourne Airport (WorkSafe Vic v Karagata Aust Pty Ltd [2024]).

In December 2021, Karagata Aust Pty Ltd was engaged to install a mezzanine walkway at Melbourne Airport. The job was carried out by two workers, as well as the company director. To gain access to the mezzanine level, the workers stood on an aluminium plank that had been suspended between two existing metal beams. The suspended plank was not fixed to either metal beam. The workers did not use fall protection equipment.

The suspended plank dislodged, causing one of the workers to fall 4 metres through the ceiling to the floor below. The worker sustained serious fractures and spinal damage, among other injuries.

Karagata Aust was charged under section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) for failing to provide or maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to the health of its employees. The Court heard that although the company had a safe work method statement (SWMS) in place, the SWMS failed to include appropriate measures to mitigate the fall risk, including securing the platform, or how any identified controls would be implemented.

Karagata Aust pleaded guilty to the charge and was fined $35,000. But for its guilty plea, the company would have been ordered to pay a $75,000 fine. Karagata Aust was also ordered to pay $5,000 in costs.

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