A registered builder in Western Australia has been fined $22,000 (and ordered to pay $900 in costs) after an apprentice fell six metres from trestle scaffolding and was seriously injured last year.
Stephen John Gregson (trading as Gregson Constructions) pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and was fined in the Joondalup Magistrates Court on Friday.
In August 2017, Gregson and two employees, one a qualified carpenter and the other an apprentice carpenter, were completing work on a two-storey timber-framed house in Two Rocks.
Gregson was in control of the works and gave instruction and direction to his employees on what work to undertake and how to perform tasks.
On the morning of August 23, the two workers were instructed to set carpenter’s trestles so they could install barge boards to the roof gable at the front of the house.
The system of work implemented by Gregson was to set up a single plank running between two 1.8 metres high trestles on the first-floor timber verandah floor, approximately three metres above ground level.
Only one scaffold bay was used so the plank was at an angle, and no fall injury prevention system was in place.
During installation of the barge board, the apprentice carpenter fell approximately six metres to the compacted and levelled ground below.
He sustained severe facial injuries that required surgery to insert a steel plate in his cheek, a fractured left wrist and concussion.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns said today it was disappointing to see cases where employers had not taken every precaution to prevent falls in the workplace.
“The apprentice involved in this incident is very fortunate not to have lost his life in the six-metre fall,” Munns said.
“Over the past 10 years, 28 Western Australian workers have lost their lives as the result of work-related falls, with a number of workers sustaining permanent and life-changing injuries in falls.
“This incident involved the use of a scaffolding method that provided no protection from falls for the workers.
“Two days after this incident scaffolding was erected at the front elevation up to the roof edge at no cost to Mr Gregson, providing safe access and a safe working platform for the barge boards and eliminating the fall hazard.
“Unfortunately, this was done two days too late for the apprentice who was so seriously injured.
“The Code of Practice – Prevention of Falls at Workplaces has been in use in WA since 2004, and should be followed by anyone who has a duty to prevent falls at workplaces.
“This code provides practical advice on the safe systems of work that should be in place where the risk of falls exists.
“It is well known – especially in the construction industry – that working at heights is hazardous and that unprotected edges present a significant risk to workers.
“The various means of removing or mitigating the risks are also well known throughout the industry, and control measures and equipment to minimise the risk of falls are readily available for a reasonable cost.
“Employers need to be aware of all the laws involved when there is a fall risk at their workplace and ensure they have suitable safe work procedures in place.”