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Building company fined over lack of fall protection

17 December, 2009

A building company has been fined $6500 for failing to provide edge protection on a building site after a sub-contractor fell 2.4 metres through an unprotected stairwell void.

Generation Homes (WA) Pty Ltd pleaded guilty and was fined in the Rockingham Magistrates Court last month.

In July 2007, the company was constructing a private residence in Rockingham, and had engaged Getts Pty Ltd to lay a wooden floor on the second storey of the house.

A sub-contactor to Getts went to the second storey via an internal stairwell that had no edge protection at the top. A painter was also working on the second storey at the time.

While the man was in the process of laying the wooden flooring near the unprotected edge of the stairwell, he fell from the edge to the ground floor below.

Edge protection had been in place at an earlier time, but it had been removed in order to make the laying of the floor easier.

WorkSafe WA commissioner Nina Lyhne said it was always disappointing to hear of falls that could have been prevented.

"It's really disappointing to see a lack of fall protection in workplaces because falls are readily preventable and it need not be difficult or costly to ensure that suitable barriers or fall arrest systems are organised before a tragedy can occur," Lyhne said.

"Falls are one of the most significant causes of workplace death in the construction industry, and seven Western Australian workers have died in just over 12 months as a result of falls. A further 1295 are injured each year, many seriously and permanently.

"Edge protection had earlier been used around the stairwell, but it had been removed to make it easier to install the wooden flooring.

"It would have been practicable for the employer to have used another method of fall protection that would not have interfered with the work being performed.

"As it was, the unprotected void was a disaster waiting to happen, and unfortunately it did.

"Plenty of information is readily available on the prevention of falls, and I would expect a building company to be acutely aware of the need to prevent falls.

"A code of practice on fall prevention has existed in WA for the past 19 years, with the original code being initiated in response to the number of fatalities being recorded in the construction industry at that time.

"The current code is comprehensive – providing information on the identification of common fall hazards and the use of fall arrest equipment – and I urge all employers with workplaces that may contain fall hazards to ensure copies of the code are readily available at their workplaces."
Source: WorkSafe WA

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