Roofing company fined after worker’s death

Just 17 days after a labourer was electrocuted and another seriously burned, four other roof workers fell four metres onto concrete ground at a nearby Sydney site.

In fining Perry’s Roofing Pty Ltd $600,000, a judge said it almost “defies belief” that the company did not immediately carry out a “root and branch” review of safety at all of its sites after the first incident.

“There are troubling similarities between the two incidents,” Judge David Russell said in the NSW District Court on Thursday.

Joel White was dismantling edge protection while standing on the roof of a Moorebank site on February 11, 2019 .

The 25-year-old labourer died after being electrocuted following contact between high voltage energised power lines and a steel handrail he was holding.

Another worker tried to help and suffered severe flash burns to his legs.

Perry’s Roofing, a small family business, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with its work health and safety duty, thus exposing the men to a high risk of death or serious injury.

“In spite of the power lines at the site being clearly visible to anyone who looked …. absolutely no steps were taken to deal with such an obvious hazard,” the judge said.

In a separate SafeWork NSW prosecution, it also pleaded guilty to a similar offence at another Moorebank site on February 28, 2019 when asbestos roof sheeting was being removed.

Workers were stripping roof sheets and placing them in stacks of 10 to 25 sheets.

Some timber purlins broke due to excessive point loading from the stacks of roof sheets.

Part of the roof structure collapsed and the roof sheets fell, damaging the wire safety mesh underneath the roof.

Two workers were hospitalised after suffering significant injuries when they fell through the roof and the mesh onto concrete four metres below.

Two other workers also were injured.

“It was a miracle that no workers were killed or more seriously injured,” the judge said.

While a Perry’s Roofing supervisor had looked at the purlins, he failed to properly consider whether they posed a risk of failure.

The judge said it was not good enough for industrial companies to form a “gut feel” view about matters which clearly should be the subject of actions including a proper risk assessment and expert advice.

He also accepted that while Perry’s Roofing couldn’t delegate its duty, there were other persons whose acts or omissions can be said to have contributed to the circumstances which gave rise to the risk.

“Perry’s Roofing is the first of the entities to come before the court for sentence.”

He accepted Perry’s had shown remorse and had good prospects of rehabilitation.

Referring to five victim impact statements read out by Mr White’s relatives, the judge said he was obviously a much-loved young man.

“He was humble, loyal and caring.

“He was a friend to everyone he knew.

“He was the life of every party.”

Grant Perry was in court to see the devastating effect upon these family members of the breach of duty committed by Perry’s Roofing.

“I only wish that every employer in New South Wales could be required to watch a video of the Victim Impact Statements in this case being read aloud in open court,” the judge said.

He fined the company $450,000 for the first incident and $150,000 for the second, as well as ordering it to pay the prosecutor’s costs.

Source: Perth Now

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