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.
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.