Company and director fined $320,000 after unprotected fall

Source: WorkSafe Victoria.

A residential building company and its director have been convicted and fined a total of $320,000 after a renderer was seriously injured when he fell 3.2 metres while working without fall protection.

Palladian Three Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court today after earlier being found guilty of a single charge of failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health.

The company was convicted and fined $250,000.

Director Sach Sackl was also convicted and fined $70,000 after earlier being found guilty of a single charge of failing, as director, to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health.

The court heard the renderer fell while working from an unsecured plank on the exterior of the second floor of a unit under construction at Pascoe Vale in October 2016.

He was taken to hospital with serious injuries including a fractured skull and brain haemorrhage, broken ribs, a punctured lung, lacerated spleen, fractured arm and fractured ankle.

WorkSafe alleged that there was a risk of serious injury or death due to falling from the plank, which was 3.2 metres above ground and had no edge or fall protection.

The court found it was reasonably practicable for Palladian Three and Mr Sackl to ensure that passive fall prevention such as scaffolding was in place before the work began.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the serious risks associated with working at heights are well-known and there is no excuse for failing to provide safe workplaces.

“This was a blatant failure to protect workers, which sadly left one worker with significant injuries that could have easily been fatal,” Dr Beer said.

“Already this year there have been three deaths due to workplace falls,” she said.

“WorkSafe won’t hesitate to prosecute employers who fail in their duty of care to maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.”

To prevent falls from height employers should first:

  • Consider if they can eliminate the risk by doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.

If that is not possible, they should use:

  • A passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
  • A positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system.
  • A fall arrest system, such as a catch platform or safety nets.
  • A fixed or portable ladder or implement administrative controls.

Does a Height Safety Qualification mean a Safe Operator?

Article by Michael Biddle, for Sourceable.

Does my Height Safety Qualification Make Me a Safe Operator?

It’s not always an easy question to answer, as the reality is that there are many factors that determine a person’s competency.

There is a natural deferral point to this question – if the person holds a ‘Work Safety at Heights’ qualification with a Nationally recognised competency from a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), then surely this is the simple answer? In truth, it is only part of the answer to the question, and in many respects it might be that whilst people naturally defer to this answer, they may be ignoring the deeper risk in making decisions like this without considering all the key issues.

I have detailed below a summary of a number of key questions to consider when making a full assessment on whether to engage a contractor for working at height tasks or not and assess whether you’re placing yourself or your company at risk by using that person to perform tasks whilst working at height.

(1) Understand the tasks to be completed for the specific site / location – one of the first things to understand are the core tasks to actually be completed at height. Is there a possibility that these tasks can be done without having to work at height? Are there equipment or access methodologies to use that prevent the person from placing themselves at the risk of a fall in the first place? Ask your contractor to offer solutions or prescribe these methods before commencing work. That way you can assess if their proposed methods are valid / lowest risk.

(2) Are suitable documentation and procedures in existence to support the work to be carried out? – Can the contractor provide you with a suitable risk assessment of the individual site conditions that might be encountered during their work? What methods of access are they proposing and control measures will they implement to mitigate the risks? Typically the provision of well-documented Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) incorporating methods of risk mitigation including rescue will be important to see. They should also detail the types of equipment to be used to perform the tasks and how and why these methods are used to mitigate the risks identified during the risk assessment process.

(3) Are they both theory and practicality qualified to perform the work at height? – A qualification is one thing, however with the current vocational training system in place, an RTO can deliver a ‘Safe Work at Heights’ qualification in alignment with the requirements of a Nationally recognised competency, however they do not need to prove their course is delivering safety of students.

The RTO system does provide adequate and relevant frameworks for the delivery of consistent training, however it does not participate in the quality control of the training itself. Once issued, a qualification does not expire. Technically therefore you could have successfully completed a course 10 years ago, however not be obliged to re-train or refresh your skills to gain a recertification of your qualifications.

Additionally, quality training providers will also be able to demonstrate that their students have undertaken a practical assessment of a person’s ability to use height safety equipment and work safely. The qualifications for competent operators will also likely reflect training in rescue techniques, the deployment of temporary access systems and using ladder climbing techniques such as using twin lanyards, rope adjustment and diversion anchors. Vendors issuing these qualifications that do not provide practical training are not fully executing on their duty of care to their students. If you can imagine a person undertaking an online course or half day course on working at heights might be issued the same qualification as someone with the same competency issued for a 1-2 day course. There is therefore going to be a major inconsistency between the standard of both courses.

One of the best examples to illustrate why this is important is someone achieving their drivers license. You are obliged to study content and then sit a theory exam before you can then undertake a practical test of your skills to follow the road rules and perform the safe operation of a vehicle.

These conditions are mandatory for all drivers, and yet are not mandatory for people working at height. So therefore the need to assess the merits of a qualification are the responsibility of the asset owner/their representative, in the absence of a formal / mandatory assessment process.

This issue is one of the greatest faults of height safety training in the VET system, as in my view as it gives both holders of the qualifications and the customers/companies they serve a false sense of security. To mitigate this risk, review the list of WAHA endorsed training providers and request other leading providers of training to provide evidence that they conduct/recommend refresher training at least every 2 years to overcome this area of concern.

(4) Does the person have previous experience in performing the specific work required to a high standard? – Experience is always a useful indicator of competency, but again, it’s only a part of the equation. Just because you have been doing a task for 5 years – perhaps you have been taking unnecessary risks in the way you’re performing those tasks and you’ve just been lucky that something serious hasn’t happened. Therefore do not rely solely on experience to make your decision.

(5) Does the company /operator promote the use of two-person teams when working remotely and at height or are they relying on someone using their mobile phone to call for help? – There are a significant number of companies that do not engage teams of two people to perform inspections at locations. Their belief and explanation is always – ‘if there is an incident, the operator can simply make a call for help from their mobile phone’.

What happens if the person has a heart attack and cannot move? What happens if the person falls over an edge and is injured in the process or drops their phone? How will a rescue be performed on that person if they are seriously injured and no-one knows of their injury for several hours? The use of single operators for inspection work may well be deemed appropriate if the inspection task can be done without other risks however you should be encouraged to contemplate this seriously in your decision making process before relying on a single-person operator or inspector to perform such tasks.

This list of areas for review is of course not exhaustive however it should provide adequate guidance for most decision making to assess a person / company’s ability to complete work at height. So I can only encourage you to look ‘beyond the ticket’ as a sign of capability to reduce your risk when choosing a company/person to perform work at height.

Fall Protection in the Construction Industry & Important COVID-19 Precautions.

by Scott Barber for Sourceable.

Working at height is a high-risk activity and a leading cause of death and serious injury within the construction industry.

In fact, Safe Work Australia reports that between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2015, 359 construction workers died as a result of falls from a height. This accounted for 37% of all fall related injuries and fatalities.

Dire consequences can result from an unsafe workplace, so height safety compliance is critically important.

As far as is practicable, the person responsible for any work being carried out needs to understand his or her obligations to managing the risk of someone falling from height. Precautions may include:

  • That work is carried out either on the ground or from a solid construction.
  • That there is a safe means of access and exit to a workplace.
  • That the risk of falls is minimised by providing a fall prevention device, work positioning system or fall arrest system.

As the regulator, Safe Work Australia has provided information on its website that outlines the risks of working at height and how to manage these risks in line with the Australian Standards. For more information, see

Protecting workers from falls from height

Wherever practicable, protecting workers from the risk of a fall should be done by eliminating the need to work at height. If this is not possible, other preventative measures may include installation of fall prevention equipment.

This equipment is designed to prevent a fall and once installed, doesn’t require any further adjustment by workers using it. It may include:

  • Guard rails or barriers.
  • Fall Arrest harnesses, lanyards and safety lines.

Regardless, adequate fall protection to mitigate the risk of a fall is mandatory and systems should be designed to provide a safe system of work.

Fall prevention systems should be considered at the design and planning stage of any project and may include:

  • Roof safety mesh
  • Guard railings and barriers
  • Scaffolding or elevated work platforms
  • Fall prevention devices
  • Work positioning systems

With any fall arrest system, work procedures should be developed on how to correctly install, use and maintain the system.

The importance of training and maintenance

Whilst fall protection equipment can assist in the management of risk, it will only provide the protection needed if workers are adequately trained in its use and the equipment is well maintained.

Maintaining PPE equipment helps to provide confidence and safety in the work arena, whereas quality training provides workers with knowledge on how to inspect their equipment before and after use, as well as how to clean and maintain it.

The Australian Standard AS/NZS1891.4 provides information on inspections and maintenance. It is referred to by the Regulators in their work practice documents, providing guidance for persons involved in working at height. Further information on the Standards can be found in the Working at Height Inspection Bulletins available from

Web based products are required to be inspected six monthly by a Height Safety Equipment Inspector who is trained in the skills needed to detect faults in the equipment and to determine remedial action.

Why does equipment degrade?

There are a range of possible reasons why materials used in fall protection equipment degrade. This includes general wear and tear; abuse; edge/surface damage; ultraviolet light (certainly very prevalent in Australia); dirt; grit; chemicals; excessive loading; and if they have been used to protect a worker from a fall.

Textiles can deteriorate slowly with age regardless of use, however the most common cause of strength loss in textile equipment is through abrasion (either by grit working into the strands or by chafing against sharp or rough edges) or by other damage such as cuts. Any equipment that shows such signs of damage should be destroyed.

In addition, textile equipment which has suffered a high shock load (impact force), or that has had a load dropped onto it, should also be removed from use.

The Australian Standards AS/NZS1891.4 refers to AS/NZS1891.1, which specifies that harnesses or web-based height safety products should be removed from service and not used again after 10 years from date of manufacture.


It is essential that the person carrying out any inspection is competent to do so. In the case of pre-use checks, this is likely to be the user, however detailed and interim inspections should be carried out by a qualified Height Safety Equipment Inspector who should be sufficiently independent and impartial to allow them to make objective decisions, with appropriate and genuine authority to take the appropriate action.

This does not mean that inspector must necessarily be employed from an external company, although many companies and lone workers arrange do choose to outsource their inspections.

Employers should establish a regime for the inspection of equipment, drawn up by a competent person, which should include:

  • A list of equipment to be inspected (including their unique identification);
  • Frequency and type of inspection (pre-use checks, detailed inspection, interim inspection and servicing);
  • Designated competent persons (Height Safety Equipment Inspector) to carry out the inspections (note that a competent person may need to be trained by a manufacturer or their authorised representative on specific PPE or other equipment and may need to have that training updated due to modification and upgrades);
  • Action to be taken on finding defective products;
  • Means of recording the inspections;
  • Training of users;
  • Means of monitoring the inspection regime to verify inspections are carried out accordingly.

Interim inspections may also be required in instances where the risk assessment has identified a risk that could result in significant deterioration of equipment, which may affect its integrity before the next detailed inspection is due.

This may be particularly necessary in arduous working environments that involve paints, chemicals, grit blasting operations and acidic or alkaline conditions. The results of interim inspections should be recorded and maintained.

Cleanliness and COVID-19:

Whereas there has always been the requirement for fall arrest equipment to be kept clean and dry, the arrival of COVID-19 virus has highlighted the need for increasing vigilance when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting equipment.

It is reasonable to assume that construction industry workers may come into contact with a person who unknowingly has the virus. Equipment used by this worker could become contaminated, with a risk of spreading the virus to other workers.

Cleanliness is king in this environment. Research suggests that the virus can survive on hard surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours (three days), particularly as many work surfaces and PPE have hard surfaces.

There appears to be little research on how long the virus lives on fabric. Although it may be less time than on hard surfaces, the best method of defence is to clean and disinfect your PPE regularly.

The Department of Health provides information on the need to clean and disinfect PPE. Information can be found at Department of Health’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for health and residential care

The Department of Health recommends disinfectants suitable for use on hard surfaces (ie. surfaces where any spilt liquid pools and does not soak in). This may include alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%; chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million; oxygen bleach; or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging.

Concentrated bleach can damage polyester fibres, whereas diluting the bleach may reduce this damaging effect. CHOICE Australia recommends that when cleaning woven materials such as webbings found in fall arrest equipment, that they be cleaned in a mild soapy warm solution, rinsed in clean water and then treated with a disinfectant. For more information, see

From all this, one thing is certain. Coronavirus has not only changed the way we work, but also added another layer to ensuring health and safety in the workplace as we adapt and refine our work methods moving forward.