Building company fined over multiple safety failures

M.Z.K Constructions Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court last week after pleading guilty to three charges of failing to ensure that a workplace under its management or control was safe and without risks to health and one charge of failing to comply with a prohibition notice.

The company was also ordered to pay costs of $4,414.

The court heard that WorkSafe inspectors visited the Hamlyn Heights site 10 times between January and April 2022.

On the first visit, an inspector observed workers working at a height of about five metres with no fall protection in place. The workers had not been inducted and there was no safe work method statement (SWMS) prepared for the high-risk construction work.

At a follow-up visit, inspectors observed inadequate fall protection around the building’s second storey and no fall protection around the stair void. No information had been provided to workers on how to erect compliant guard rails and the workers had not been inducted.

Inspectors issued a prohibition notice preventing any work on the second storey without a rated guard rail system or stair void fall protection, however, on a further visit observed work continuing in contravention of the notice.

The court found it was reasonably practicable for M.Z.K Constructions to have prepared a site-specific SWMS prior to work commencing; to have installed perimeter edge protection such as guard railing to the second storey; and to have provided induction and/or site specific training to workers.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the risk of falls from height were well known and so were the measures to reduce them.

“It is incredibly frustrating that this company repeatedly put workers in danger, there can be absolutely no excuses for not taking safety seriously when working at height,” Dr Beer said.

“This year alone, seven workers have lost their lives due to injuries sustained in falls from height, which highlights the tragic consequences of failing to manage the risks.”

To prevent falls from height employers should:

  • Eliminate the risk by, where practicable, doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.
  • Use a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
  • Use a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system, to ensure employees work within a safe area.
  • Use a fall arrest system, such as a harness, catch platform or safety nets, to limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall.
  • Use a fixed or portable ladder, or implement administrative controls.
  • Ensure high-risk construction work is not performed unless a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared and that all work is undertaken in accordance with that SWMS.

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