Queensland construction companies fined for safety breaches

Queensland construction companies fined for safety breaches

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ), the state’s safety regulator, has recently announced a series of successful prosecutions against construction companies for various breaches of the Work Health & Safety Act 2011 (the Act) involving falls from heights. The cases serve as a reminder of the significant penalties that courts can impose if companies undertake work in an unsafe manner.

On 30 September 2021, a building company was fined $80,000 and the company director $10,000 following an incident where one of the company’s workers sustained significant injuries after falling from height at a construction site in Tingalpa. The worker sustained a traumatic brain injury, fractured ribs, a fractured scapula, as well as ongoing issues connected to the loss of hearing, balance, smell and taste.

The WHSQ investigation found contributing factors included the lack of mandatory Safe Work Method Statements for the work being undertaken, no risk assessments had been conducted to assess the dangers of working from heights, and no fall protection measures existed at the site such as guardrails, harnesses or personal protective equipment.

In imposing the fines, Magistrate Judith Daley acknowledged the company’s early plea, cooperation with the investigation and lack of previous convictions. She did not record a conviction.

On 8 October 2021, Cordwell Resources Pty was fined $500,000 for failing to discharge their health and safety obligations, and a company director was sentenced to six months imprisonment. The company has subsequently lodged an appeal against the convictions.

Cordwell Resources conduct a business manufacturing and supplying concrete aggregate and sand.

WHSQ conducted an investigation after a worker sustained a head injury while repairing a valve on a suction line. The investigation found that a Cordwell director had failed to supervise the activity adequately and that the business had failed to use appropriate control measures to reduce the risk of injury during the repairs.

Justice Gary Long noted that the company had recorded several previous incidents where a fellow director and several employees had fallen from heights.

On 14 October 2021, a roof repair company was fined $50,000 after a worker sustained serious injuries while replacing a roof. The company was also ordered to pay $25,000 to support undertakings for the next two years.

The worker fell between 4.5-4.8 metres after inadvertently stepping on a skylight sheet and landing on a concrete floor. As a result, he suffered a fractured skull, fractured ribs, a perforated eardrum and ongoing psychological injuries.

The WHSQ investigation determined that no control measures such as a fall protection device or fall arrest system were in place while the activity was undertaken,

In imposing the fine, Magistrate Kerry Magee acknowledged the defendant’s early pleas, their cooperation during the investigation, lack of prior convictions and financial circumstances. Evidence was presented confirming the significant financial downturn the company suffered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roof repair company sentenced after failing to implement safety controls on workshop shed roof | owhsp

Cordwell Resources fined $500,000 and its director sentenced to imprisonment for reckless conduct – UNDER APPEAL | owhsp

Construction company and director fined $90,000 for failing to identify and mitigate risks of working at heights | owhsp

For questions about safety matters, workplace investigations, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529; 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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