Conviction after fall leaves worker with spinal injuries  

Karagata Australia Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Friday after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing, so far as reasonably practicable, to maintain a safe working environment.

The company was also ordered to pay costs of $5,000.

The court heard that two workers and the company director were installing a mesh walkway on a mezzanine level at Melbourne Airport in December 2021, working from an aluminium plank that was resting on – but not fixed to – metal beams.

When the plank overturned, one of the workers fell through a ceiling panel onto the floor four metres below. He was taken to hospital suffering multiple injuries, including fractures and spinal injuries.

A WorkSafe investigation found that Karagata Australia had failed to eliminate or control the risk of a fall by using a fall arrest system, such as a crash deck.

The court heard it was also reasonably practicable for the company to have had a Safe Work Method Statement that sufficiently described measures to control the risk of falling and how they would be implemented, and to ensure high risk construction work was carried out in accordance with the statement.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said there was no excuse for not putting safety first when working at heights.

“It takes just seconds for a worker to fall and the consequences can be devastating, including shocking injuries and loss of life,” Dr Beer said.

“More than 160 workers have already been seriously injured falling from heights this year, yet despite the well-known risks, we still see people working at heights without appropriate protection, often with terrible consequences.”

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.

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