$25,000 Fine for Employer Responsible for Plasterer Fall

gavelFalls from heights still account for the most workplace injuries, particularly in the construction industry.

A recent incident is a reminder of the consequences of failing to ensure that employees and non-employees are not placed at risk.

A Geelong builder was convicted and fined $25,000 plus costs of $4000 for breaching the OHS Act 2004.

The conviction related to an incident that  happened on a construction site in Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula.

A plasterer was working on a work platform which did not have protective guard rails and fell head first off the platform.

The man suffered serious injuries including damage to his skull and spine.

Apparently the builder had a Safe Work Method Statement but the work had not been performed in accordance with the statement.

Find out  more http://content.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/06/builder-convicted-plasterer-suffered-injuries-fall/#.V3rDiPl97IX

Construction Worker Falls at Gungahlin Site

Yet another workplace incident has taken place, this time on a Gungahlin site.

A 25 year old worker was taken to hospital after he fell 3 metres at a worksite to upgrade the Gungahlin Marketplace shopping centre and landed on a concrete slab.

The man was taken to Canberra Hospital where he was treated and released the same the day. He suffered serious injuries to his lower back and pelvis.

CFMEU ACT secretary Dean Hall said the man was working to reinforce a concrete slab with steel cable when he stepped on a sheet of formwork ply.

The incident is being investigated.

Source: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/man-in-serious-condition-after-fall-from-gungahlin-construction-site-20160215-gmu9az.html

Worker Suffers Injury from Building Site Fall


gosford site
Source: DailyTelegraph.com.au

A construction worker narrowly escaped death on a Gosford building site after falling off a building and getting stuck between 2 walls.

Emergency crews were called to the site after reports that a man fell 4 meters off a scaffolding platform and landed between 2 retaining walls, in the process he injured his pelvis and leg.

Fire & Rescue NSW crews from Gosford and Kariong eventually freed the injured worker, who was wedged between two walls of a garden bed about 40cm apart. Sixteen rescue workers worked to free the man using rope, who was then taken via helicopter to Royal North Shore Hospital.


Source: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/central-coast/construction-worker-sustains-leg-pelvic-injuries-in-gosford-building-site-fall/story-fngr8h0p-1227628681175

WorkCover Investigating Construction Site Fall

workcover nsw

The workplace incident that took place on Thursday morning is under investigation by WorkCover.

A man was seriously hurt after he fell at a construction site in Sydney. He sustained injuries to the neck and is being treated in hospital.

Falls contribute to a large number of workplace injuries, especially in the construction industry, which is why this incident is of such significance.

Click here for more.

White Card Update: Guarding Against Falls through Holes

A serious hazard to workers (and anyone else) on a construction site is open holes. Employers need to ensure that workers are provided with a safe work environment and safe system of work which means that if workers are exposed to unguarded holes in the floor, employers aren’t fulfilling their duty.

There are many incidents which have taken place involving workers falling through holes such as incomplete skylights during construction or renovation work. One such incident took place in Plymouth, in the UK recently and resulted in the injury of a worker.

An employee of a construction company suffered multiple injuries in the fall which he sustained while dismantling a floor at a premises in Plymouth.

The worker, 59 yearold Geoffrey Burt fell 2.3 metres into a void when he was inspecting rot on the floor of a small industrial building. The man suffered several fractures to his ribs, shoulder blade and spine as well as severe cuts to his head.

The following excerpt from a post on PPConstructionSafety.com explains what happened:

Geoffrey Burt, aged 59, was dismantling a floor at the company premises in Plymouth when he fell 2.3 metres into a void sustaining several fractures to his ribs, shoulder blade and spine, as well as severe cuts to his head.

Plymouth Magistrates’ Court heard that the company instructed the workman to examine rot on the floor of a small, disused industrial building beneath layers of vinyl and carpet.

This revealed the void of 2.3 metres between concrete plinths which had been covered over to create the floor. The following day whilst removing the floor he plunged head first into the space below.

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/09/30/workman-plunged-head-first-in-floor-void/

Health and safety inspectors discovered that the company took some steps to prevent people approaching the void but failed to take any measures to protect its employees from falls. The company failed to conduct a risk assessment or implement a safe method of working for the removal of the floor. They said that a simple board was all that was needed to cover up the opening and minimise risk to workers.

The company received hefty fines which could have easily been avoided with the proper care. The post goes on to explain,

W Cooper and Son (Plymouth) Ltd of Commercial Road, Plymouth, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000.

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/09/30/workman-plunged-head-first-in-floor-void/

The health and safety inspector, Annette Walker went on to state that the company should have ensured that there were adequate safety measures in place to guard against falls. Workers should have been adequately instructed and provided with all the necessary safety equipment and PPE needed to work safely on site. They should also have been more closely supervised.

She went to on to state:

“Mr Burt’s injuries have caused him a great deal of distress and pain and could easily have been avoided if his employer had simply provided a board to cover-up the hole.

This incident was entirely foreseeable and highlights the need for employers to take their responsibilities for the safety of their workforce seriously, especially when there are known risks.

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/09/30/workman-plunged-head-first-in-floor-void/


Picture showing the hole in the floor which the worker plummeted through head first.

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/09/30/workman-plunged-head-first-in-floor-void/

Serious Accident Highlights the Importance of Fall Protection

An accident which was reported recently reminded me of the serious consequences that workplace accidents can have especially on those within the construction industry. The incident also reminded me of the need for safety measures when undertaking work from heights because falls from heights are still the most common cause of injury in the construction sector. Almost every construction worker has witnessed an accident on site first hand or knows someone who has suffered a fall while engaging in construction work.

The accident in question took place on a site in Swindon in the UK and was reported on the popular building website PPConstructionSafety.com. Construction accidents can have extreme and severe consequences for workers if the proper control measures are not implemented.

According to the article, the 2 companies involved Wates Construction Ltd and Tego Roofing Ltd. were fined for failing to implement the proper fall protection which led to the paralysation of a worker. The worker fell through a waterproof membrane into an unguarded opening on a major development site, resulting in life changing consequences.

The horrific accident resulted from the man plummeting more than 4 metres while conducting metalwork in preparation for the installation of a vent in a roof on the new development. The man fell through the hole where the vent was going to placed. This is why we say that any possibility of a fall above 2 metres needs to be managed and the appropriate fall protection implemented.

During the investigation of this incident it was revealed that the scaffolding underneath the opening where the man was working was removed and the scaffolding boards placed over the opening were removed in order for the waterproof membrane to be placed, which meant that there was no safety mechanism in place to prevent a fall or minimise the seriousness of the impact.

Read what the post on PPConstructionSafety.com went on to explain:

cdmpmm2The court was also told:

RAMS – were unsuitable and insufficient (failed to refer to the installation for the vent);

Confusion – surrounded who was the site supervisor when the incident occurred and,

Lack of action – manager observed persons near opening but did take action.

HSE established that Tego Roofing failed to provide adequate supervision or instruction to its employees and Wates Construction failed to plan, manage and monitor the work and did not ensure there was a risk assessment in place.

Read more: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/07/09/major-contractor-monitoring-found-wanting/

Sadly accidents such as this one occur quite regularly despite the fact that they can be quite easily avoided by simply implementing the appropriate fall protection and whatever other controls are needed. Sadly the worker in this case was paralysed but the consequences for him could have been even worse, he is lucky to be alive, others may not be.

The employer in this instance failed to plan, manage and monitor work processes on the site and failed to implement risk assessments. Employers also need to ensure that workers are supervised appropriately especially when undertaking high risk work. Part of an employer’s duty according WH&S regulations is for them to implement a safe system of work to avoid incidents such as this one.


Why Fall Protection is often Ignored

I very often hear it being said (and indeed say it myself) that falls from heights are the most common cause of death within the building industry. While most of us accept this statement as fact, the more important question which we should be asking ourselves is why? Why is it that more workers around the world die from falls than any other hazards? In understanding why we can attempt to remedy the situation.

Obviously the underlying root of most construction hazard problems is a lack of attention to safety and the absence of a good safety culture. Training workers, supervising them and maintaining good communication on site are all vital in promoting overall safety however when it comes to falls, the single biggest cause of fatalities is a lack of fall protection, either because it takes some planning and provision or because workers are more concerned with productivity which they feel fall protection may hamper. Whatever the reason, the outcome is very often the same, an injury or fatality.

A post on a safety blog SimplifiedSafety.com attempted to understand reasons why workers fail to wear fall protection and some of the excuses they give for neglecting fall safety. Ultimately no matter the excuse fall protection is mandatory and should be worn at all times.

The first reason given as to why fall protection equipment is not worn is because it is uncomfortable. This is the same reason many people don’t like wearing their seatbelts but yet no one debates the fact that seatbelts save lives, similarly there should be no question that fall protection equipment is mandatory because it saves lives.

Fall protection equipment has come a long way and with modern designs, comfort has been factored in. Try out the most comfortable designs which will give workers no excuse not to utilise them. Also ensure workers are trained on correct use of all personal protective equipment including those used for fall protection because if they are not utilising it correctly, not only will it be uncomfortable but it will also be less effective.

The post on SimplifiedSafety.com goes on to discuss the excuse that fall protection equipment limits worker’s ability to work…

Depending upon the work that you do, the protective gear may actually limit your ability to do the work that you need to do. This is probably the most common reason why people do not use the equipment. Customers and employers want to have the job done correctly the first time, so it is important to do whatever you need to do to accomplish this goal. Too many people sacrifice their safety for a better product.

A good fall protection training consultant and also many product specialists can help determine the best and most versatile equipment for your particular application. If you’re new to using fall protection equipment, these can be the best resources available. The right equipment should not inhibit someone’s ability to do their job. Instead it will increase their confidence and allow them to work without fearing for their life.

Source: http://simplifiedsafety.com/blog/

The article goes on to explain excuses such as fears that the equipment make the worker feel less safe and that it takes up more time and costs more – costs which are not validated (according to these excuse makers). Read the full post at http://simplifiedsafety.com/blog/


White Card News: Electrician’s Fall results in $147,000 fine

Ask any worker on a construction site what the most common cause of serious injury is and most will agree falls from heights are major concern.

Recently another incident took place when a worker fell 3.4metres to the ground while engaging in work on a residential building site in Western Sydney. Falls from even relatively low heights can be dangerous so falls from this height are particularly concerning.

The two companies involved as well as a company director have been fined $147,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs by the courts.

The company involved, MRD Future Homes (Aust) Pty Ltd (MRD) a small construction company was contracted to build three two-storey townhouses under the same roof span in Canley Heights.MRD then subcontracted J & M Costa Enterprises Pty Ltd (J & M Costa to complete electrical work at the site. Both the companies subsequently received fines for the accident during which a 22 year old electrician working inside a townhouse fell through an opening on the first floor.

The worker fell over 3 metres onto a concrete floor below causing serious head injuries as well as multiple brain haemorrhages, a fractured collarbone and multiple spinal fractures.

WorkCover explained its’ investigation into the incident on its’ website WorkCover.nsw.gov.au:

A WorkCover investigation began and MRD, MRD’s director, and J & M Costa were each charged with a breach of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000. 

The investigation found that at the townhouse the open stairwell opening was without any fall protection.

• MRD pleaded guilty, was fined $70,000, and ordered to pay WorkCover legal costs.

• MRD’s director pleaded guilty, was fined $7000 , and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs

• J & M Costa pleaded guilty, was fined $70,000, and ordered to pay WorkCover legal costs.

WorkCover NSW’s acting General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division Peter Dunphy said given the circumstances, any fall through the stairwell opening was likely to be very serious, and the risk should have been better managed.

Source: http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/aboutus/newsroom/Pages/$147,000infinedafterseriousfallinjureselectrician.aspx

Regulation requires an approved safety system to be implemented, including guardrails, scaffolding and fall protection. If these measures do not sufficiently reduce the risk workers should be equipped with proper safety harnesses.

According to WorkCover NSW there was a clear safety breach by the companies involved here because if there were adequate safety measures in place this accident would most likely not have occurred because falls would have been guarded against. Falls from openings would have also been anticipated and the appropriate control measures would have been implemented to avoid serious injuries such as those suffered by the young workers. In this situation there was no fall protection, no handrail in place, no void platform or any physical barrier to avoid a worker falling through the hole.

This incident highlights the need for fall protection to be implemented but it also highlights how important it is that the proper safety protocols are maintained.


White Card Update: Queensland Worker Awarded $369,000 for Fall

Despite the fact that slips, trips and fall hazards claim the largest number of lives on worksites each year, it appears some employers do not take these hazards as seriously as they should.

An incident involving a fall 5 years ago is example of this and for her suffering the worker involved has been awarded $369,000.

The women suffered a trip while on the job which resulted in her injuring her lower back, tailbone and hip which then progressed into in a depressive disorder.

The woman was apparently taught and instructed to walk backwards quickly on the job when dealing with aggressive clients.

Read what a post on SafetyCulture.com.au had to say about the incident and hefty pay-out which it resulted in:

courts-crestThe Supreme Court Rockhampton on Friday awarded a 54-year-old disability worker $369,000 for an injury resulting from a work fall five years ago.

The female manager, who had been trained to walk backwards to better deal with aggressive clients, tripped, fell and suffered injuries to her lower back, tailbone and hip and developed a major depressive disorder.

Justice Duncan McMeekin ordered the disability charity to pay the woman compensation for her physical and psychiatric injuries and loss of earnings.

The court heard that staff were trained to walk backwards on the balls of their feet, in a slightly crouched position, while looking ahead at their aggressor and not where they were going.

The woman, who was 152cm tall, weighed 96kg and was “hardly athletic”, was demonstrating the “back steps” technique at a Rockhampton sports club when she fell.

“It seems to me clear beyond doubt that directing a middle-aged . . . overweight lady to walk backwards on the balls of her feet while keeping her attention directed not to where she was going but to the ‘aggressor’ in front of her . . . involves a risk of injury that she might fall over,” Justice Duncan McMeekin said.

Source: http://content.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/04/qld-disability-worker-awarded-369000-for-fall-injury/

The post goes on to explain how the employees of this company were taught by a trainer to walk backwards which the court found would increase the employees’ chances of injury.

Although this incident did not occur on a construction site there are similarities which members of the construction industry can learn from, particularly the need for employers to provide workers with a safe work environment and safe system of work. Clearly instructing workers to walk backwards does not constitute a safe system of work.

Although the law does hold the employer responsible for the safety of the work environment in general, workers also have an important role to play. Workers need to be particularly cautious when there is a possibility of slipping, tripping or falling and exercise common sense when engaging in these activities.

Although the woman involved did receive a hefty pay-out, no amount of money can compensate for the physical and emotional damage that such a serious and debilitating injury can cause.