Sole trader fined $47,250 over worker fall

A sole trader in the Great Southern has been fined $47,250 (and ordered to pay $4241 in costs) over a fall suffered by a worker that caused serious injuries.

Brett Sidney Cavanagh pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee and was fined in the Katanning Magistrates Court on Monday.

In August 2020, Mr Cavanagh had been engaged by Kojonup Auto Electrics to install insulation to the underside of a mechanical workshop roof and later to replace skylight panels in the roof with tin panels.

The insulation had been installed some months before, and Mr Cavanagh returned to the workshop with two workers he had hired to help replace the skylights with tin panels.

When all three men were working on the roof of the workshop, a worker fell through one of the skylights to the ground approximately 4.8 metres below, suffering serious injuries including extensive bruising and fractures to his elbow, arm, ribs and pelvis.

The court heard that no risk assessment was done prior to the work commencing and that no fall protection was provided.

WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said he was disappointed that falls from height due to a lack of risk assessment were still occurring.

“The failure to have a safe fall injury prevention system in place was a serious failing that exposed three workers to unacceptable risk,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“None of the three workers – including Mr Cavanagh – had any fall protection equipment and the skylight panels were not identified by signage or any other means.

“In addition, Mr Cavanagh did not provide his workers with any training or instruction on working at heights or on potentially brittle surfaces.

“Western Australia has had a Code of Practice for the Prevention of Falls at Workplaces since 2004. It provides practical guidance to effectively manage fall risks and should be followed in all workplaces where a risk of falls is present.

“The code is almost 20 years old, so it would be reasonable to think that anyone potentially involved in working on a roof would at least be familiar with the code’s requirements.”

Magistrate Scaddan commented that the incident was avoidable and that there were steps that could have been taken to prevent it from happening.

She further commented that there was no safety procedure in place other than a very basic verbal procedure, and that the offender could have taken very minor and hardly inconvenient steps.

She said the offender had relied on anecdotal experience that he and his employees had worked without incident in the past – but it was dangerous to assume that nothing would happen this time.

Her Honour noted that Mr Cavanagh was remorseful, he remained friends with the injured worker and had assisted him on a personal level.

Source: Commerce WA

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