Construction firm fined after falling worker breaks back

Date: Feb 15, 2012

A construction firm has been fined $60,000 after an investigation found that it failed to provide a safe working environment for a 27-year-old worker who fell four metres on a building site.

The 27-year-old man was employed as part of a team that was replacing the roofing of houses previously damaged by fire.

It has been reported that the victim and his team were rushing to complete a project as the weather turned, aiming to have their restoration efforts watertight before the rain began.

To this end the man climbed on to the framing of the house in order to place the roof truss before the clouds opened up too much for work to continue.

Unfortunately, the wooden beam was slippery and the man lost his hold on the framework before falling down a stairwell void which was not sealed off.

The four-metre fall saw the victim sustain a number of serious injuries, including a punctured lung, broken ribs, a fractured wrist, an open head wound and three shattered vertebrae.

As a compensation lawyer will know, these types of damage can have quite a severe impact on the victim's quality of life.

In this case, the fall resulted in the man having part of his spinal cord severed and he may never be able to walk again.

WorkSafe investigators were told by the injured man's supervisor that he had witnessed the man's ascent up the framework and thought it unsafe, but did not ask him to come down or don a harness because he felt that the man was capable of handling the beam despite the inclement weather conditions.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 by failing to "provide and maintain" equipment and working conditions that were not hazardous.

As a result the industrial court fined the company a total of $60,000 to be paid out on a monthly basis over a number of years.

In delivering her decision magistrate Leslie Fleming explained that the fine was delivered in this manner to reflect the guilty plea – had they proven unrepentant and plead not guilty, she would have increase the fine to $100,000.

In NSW, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 provides similar legislative protection to workers across all industries – with legal provisions that require employers to actively manage risks and provide a hazard-free environment.

A workplace personal injury lawyer can help victims to explore their legal options before choosing a course of action.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.