Three companies have been fined a total of $355,000 by the industrial court of New South Wales after it found that they failed to ensure that scaffolding was secured before employees were able to use it.
WorkCover NSW have confirmed that packaging firm Visy was not the prime employer of the 21-year-old male victim at the time of the accident.
The organisation contracted Allied Industrial Engineering (AIE) to supply specialised engineering services related to the maintenance of its equipment, including upgrading a ‘digester’ unit used to convert wood chips into pulp for paper.
The incident occurred at Visy’s milling facility in Tumut in the Riverina region of NSW on July 5 2008.
As part of his regular duties, the worker in question had ascended scaffolding set up by a third company – Bell Scaffolding – that had been contracted to erect a series of platforms to enable maintenance work on a ‘digester’ unit, amongst other duties.
The court heard that while the victim was carrying out his prescribed tasks inside the pulping machine, he fell down a gap between the flooring and the machine wall that measured more than 40 centimetres.
He travelled a total of 14 metres – striking pieces of the scaffolding in his rapid descent before colliding heavily with the bottom of the plant.
The worker managed to sustain significant injuries as a result of his fall – although the details where not provided by WorkCover’s public report it can be assumed that the man required hospitalisation.
While Bell was found to have failed to provide a safe working environment, both Visy and AIE were censured for accepting verbal assurances that the scaffolding was safe and ready for use – rather than carrying out their own inspections.
Speaking on the findings of the court, the general manager of Work Health and Safety Division at WorkCover John Watson said that the appropriate steps to ensure worker safety when dealing with heights was well known and should have been adhered to.
Watson asserted: “These companies should have done a full and proper inspection of the scaffolding and ensured that nobody performed work on it until the gaps were fixed.
“Without proper inspection of equipment and awareness of serious risks and their appropriate controls, employees will always be at risk.”
Extensive injuries can mean that a victim is unable to work while they receive medical treatment – and in some cases they are unable to return to their previous job at all.
In these cases a personal injury lawyer can help to ensure that their financial future remains clear by gaining access to compensation payments.
When costs are a concern, a no win no fee arrangement can be made that allows victims to explore their legal options before deciding on a course of action.