Carport and garage manufacturer fined $100K over workplace death

A woman who lost her partner in a workplace incident – which could have been prevented if safety gear was hired for $700 – has implored employers to put the safety of their workers above all else.

Jeffrey Wright, 51, was working for carport and roof manufacturer Maverick Steel in December 2019, helping to remove roofing sheets, when he fell 6.5m onto the concrete floor and suffered fatal injuries.

The SA Employment Tribunal fined the company $100,000 for his death after the company – finding that Mr Wright’s death could have been prevented if a safety harness had been hired.

Mr Wright’s fiance, Rachael Donetzkow, said she was glad the company was being held responsible, and hoped other businesses would heed the message to ensure a safe working environment for all employees.

“This is really important to me because I don’t want anyone else to have to go through this,” she said.

Just two weeks after Mr Wright died in December 2019, Ms Donetzkow discovered she was pregnant with their first child.

“He always wanted a boy, he could have got his wish,” she said.

But, their little boy, Lachlan Jeffrey Donetzkow, was tragically stillborn in September 2020 at 38 weeks gestation due to complications.

“He would have been a great dad to our boy. He was still young, he was full of energy.”

She said Mr Wright, a father of two daughters from a previous relationship, was hardworking, always willing to help others and would light-up a room.

“He made a huge impact on my life my family. He was a fun guy, he was caring and loving,” she said.

“He was like no one I had ever met before.”

In the decision handed down by the SAET, Deputy President Judge Miles Crawley said no formal risk assessment was undertaken and Mr Wright was not being supervised when he fell to his “untimely and unnecessary death”.

“Appropriate safety equipment comprising an arrest harness could have been hired at a cost of less than $700,” he said.

“Alternatively the work being attempted could have been undertaken by a suitably qualified expert team for less than $4000.

“The cost of not doing so was the loss of Mr Wright’s life, leaving his family and friends devastated.”

The decision notes Mr Wright “died as a result of severe fall injuries sustained to his head, chest, abdomen and pelvis.”

Maverick Steel pleaded guilty to three counts of breaching the Work Health and Safety Act over Mr Wright’s death.

In his decision, Judge Crawley notes the business “failed to provide and maintain a safe working environment”.

He also found the business failed to conduct “adequate hazard identification” or risk assessment and did not provide adequate supervision or instruction on how to safely work on the roof.

In the decision, Judge Crawley said working from heights was “not part of the defendant’s usual business”, but the “risk of serious injury or death resulting from a fall from a height is obvious”.

“Accordingly, as a matter of general deterrence, the penalty must reflect that, when working at heights, failure to provide specific appropriate safeguards will attract substantial penalties,” he said.

“Since this incident, the only formal variation to the work system referred to by the defendant is the introduction of a SafeWorkSA template for WHS induction,” Judge Crawley said.

He said the 30-year-old business’s lack of prior offences was “just as likely to be the result of good luck as of good management”.

Judge Crawley said the offences normally attracted a fine of $300,000 but noted the business was not capable of paying such a fine. Instead, he imposed a $100,000 fine.

He ordered the company install a shed for Kura Yerlo with a plaque dedicated to Mr Wright. He also ordered the business arrange for one of its workers to complete a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety within 12 months.

Source: Adelaide Now

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