$300,000 fine for death caused by failing to follow standard
WorkSafe Victoria v Bilic Homes Pty Ltd (2016)
Bilic Homes, a family-owned building company, was charged with failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment. The prosecution concerned an incident where an unbraced brick wall collapsed and killed a carpenter who was working on the site.
The Court heard that an unbraced wall had been erected at the direction of Bilic Homes. The company had directed bricklayers to build two brick walls outside of the normal sequence of construction at a time when there was no frame in place. Bilic blamed difficulties of site access and timing of contractors for not bracing the walls.
The Court heard Bilic never discussed the need to brace the walls with the bricklayers and the walls were left unbraced for 13 days. The Melbourne County Court found that temporary bracing was required to stabilise the walls in line with the relevant Australian Standard. The company was convicted and fined $300,000.
Employers must proactively and promptly address risks of collapse of structures, including by wind and lateral forces. It is critical that information and instructions are provided to subcontractors and others on site who may be exposed to the risk of injury.
This is also important in the context of other industries where the controller of the premises holds information about hazards and risks that must be communicated to others in the workplace.
Please note: Case law is reported as correct and current at time of publishing. Be aware that cases in lower courts may be appealed and decisions subsequently overturned.
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