How did an employer's negligence lead to a worker's death?

Date:Jan 23, 2019

Every year there are an average of 27 worker fatalities as a result from falls from heights, according to the latest data from Safe Work Australia. The risks of working at heights are often misunderstood by many employees, as demonstrated in a case recently brought before the NSW District Court.

Background of the case

A small, family-run roofing business was employed by a holding company to undertake maintenance and repair on two of its buildings on a site in Greenacre. The small business was required to remove asbestos cement sheeting (AC sheeting) from the walls and roof of both buildings, as well as instal new safety mesh.

At the time of the incident, all employees working on site had completed a working-at-heights course and gained relevant certification. The victim also held a national licence to perform high risk work in NSW.

The employees used a scissor lift to access the roofs. Once on top, they walked on purlins and used fall arrest harnesses to prevent falls.

Events leading up to the incident

The small business sub-contracted some work out to another company that was helping remove some of the AC mesh. In order to add new mesh, they cut the old mesh. Once compromised, the old mesh was no longer attached to the purlin and therefore could not act as a fall prevention measure.

However, at the time of the incident, the old mesh was not replaced. When one of the employees ascended the roof and made his way along the purlin, he fell eight metres onto the ground. He sustained severe head injuries and was later pronounced dead.

Coming to a conclusion

While the consequences of the incident were truly harrowing, the court still needed to decide on the fate of the small company. It found that the risk of a worker falling through the roof was obvious, as the company had failed to repair the mesh before allowing employees to walk on it. This was part of a simple process that could have eliminated the risk. 

Regardless of the company owner's close relationship with the deceased, the court found him guilty of workplace negligence and therefore ordered him to pay a fine and convicted him of the death.

Workplace injuries are a common occurrence in NSW. If you've sustained injuries as a result of your employer's negligence, get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners today. We can help you submit a claim for compensation to get you the justice you deserve. 

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