An Ocean Grove, Australia plastering company was recently convicted and fined $25,000 over an incident in which a subcontractor suffered severe spinal injuries after falling from a work platform.
Precision Plastering pleaded guilty in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court to one charge of breaching the OHS Act 2004 for failing to ensure the workplace was safe and without risks to health. It was also ordered to pay $5,000 in costs.
The conviction follows the recent prosecution of another Ocean Grove based-business, Vand Builders Pty Ltd, over the same incident. Vand Builders was also convicted and fined $25,000.
The court heard that in 2015 Precision Plastering Pty Ltd was engaged by Vand Builders to assist in the construction of two adjoining double-storey townhouses at Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula.
On Sept. 8, 2015, more than 40 sheets of plaster were delivered to the site by truck. After the truck became bogged it was decided that the sheets were to be unloaded by two workers on the ground, who would pass them up to two workers on a work platform made of steel scaffolding.
The sheets were then to be passed to three workers standing on a second-floor balcony so they could be taken inside. The court was told the platform was about 2.1m above the ground and about 1m from the side of the townhouse. It had no protective guard rails.
A subcontractor for Precision Plastering who was to be working on the platform requested some form of fall protection. Vand Builders added a piece of frame to one side of the platform but left the other three sides without protection.
After a majority of the plaster sheets had been moved, four of the largest sheets remained, each measuring 1.35m by 4.8m and weighing about 40kg. As one of the sheets was being moved, it snapped and struck the subcontractor pushing him through the gap between the platform and the townhouse. He landed on his head, fracturing his skull and breaking his spine.
In his Victim Impact Statement, which was read to the court, the man said he now spent most of his time in a wheelchair and continued to suffer a range of severe medical problems.
WorkSafe’s Acting Executive Director of Health and Safety, Melinda Collinson, said Precision Plastering had failed completely in their duty of care.
“There is just no excuse for an incident like this to have occurred in a workplace,” Collinson said. “Falls are a leading cause of serious injury and death on construction sites in Victoria and appropriate safety guarding must be installed when working from heights.
“It is not acceptable that even after the subcontractor asked for protective measures to be added to the platform, adequate risk controls were not provided by either Precision Plastering or Vand builders.
“The lack of regard for worker safety by both companies has tragically changed this man’s life forever.
“Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility and it is vitally important that hazards are recognized and the risks controlled to prevent a serious injury or worse.”
Author Kori Shafer-Stack, Editor, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in post-injury response procedures and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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