A cold storage company has been convicted and fined $380,000 after a refrigerator contractor died when he fell 7.4 metres through a plant room skylight.
WF Montague Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court to one contravention of section 21 of the OHS Act for failing to maintain systems of work that were, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health and safety.
The 57-year-old worker died when a section of the skylight he was walking on gave way beneath him at the company’s Lysterfield site.
The court heard how he had attended the site numerous times as part of regular maintenance and renovation works, but had not completed and signed a Safe Work Method Statement or a hot work permit to do work on the roof, despite it being corroded and in a poor condition.
A WorkSafe investigation found Montague failed to ensure the relevant documentation was completed and approved, and failed to install temporary walkways to restrict access to fragile sections of the roof.
It also failed to install fall prevention devices such as anchor points, static lines and a safety mesh beneath the roof.
WorkSafe Acting Executive Director of Health and Safety, Barbara Hill, said employers were responsible for the safety of all workers.
“A contractor has tragically lost his life because important safety controls were not properly followed,” Ms Hill said.
“There is no point having a Safe Work Method Statement prepared for safely undertaking tasks if it is not completed, signed and understood by everyone at a worksite, including contractors.
“Working from height is always high-risk work and WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute companies that fail to adequately protect employees and contractors from fall dangers.”
To ensure SWMS are effective employers and duty holders must:
• Ensure that once a SWMS has been developed, all high-risk construction work is undertaken in accordance with that SWMS.
• Stop work immediately or as soon as it is safe to do so once they become aware a SWMS is not being followed.
• Review the SWMS whenever there is a change in the work being undertaken or if there is an indication that control measures are not adequate.
• A copy of the SWMS must be retained for the duration of any high-risk construction work.
To eliminate or reduce the risks of falls from heights employers can:
• Complete all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid structure.
• Use passive fall prevention devices such as scaffolds, perimeter screens or guardrails.
• Use travel restraint systems.
• Use fall arrest systems such as catch platforms or harness systems.
• Use administrative controls.
To find out more about preventing falls from height, click here.
Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.