House moving company and director fined over workplace roof fall

Source: WorkSafe QLD

A Queensland house moving company and its director have been fined a total of $60,000 over a work safety incident where a worker fell from a roof.

The company and its sole director/shareholder both pleaded guilty recently in the Bundaberg Magistrates Court to breaching Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 by failing to comply with their health and safety duties, exposing a worker to a risk of death or serious injury.

The company operates a business centred around the relocation, demolition, re-stumping and raising of houses.

The court heard the company was contracted to remove a double storey residential house in Wallaville. On 7 January 2021, three workers were at the site, including an 18-year-old who had worked for the company for five months but had no formal qualifications or experience, nor did he receive any induction or formal training. He was also unaware of any written procedures or safe work method statements (SWMS). The company had a generic SWMS, but it was not site specific, nor had it been updated in nine years.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) investigation found that whilst the young worker was on the roof placing a tarpaulin across the ceiling for weather protection, he put his foot in the roof valley and it gave way, causing him to fall 5m to the ground. He sustained a back injury, was hospitalised for nine days and unable to work for several months, before ultimately starting a new job.

The WHSQ investigation also revealed that even though safety harnesses were made available to workers, the company did not enforce their use, nor were there any other protections or measures in place to eliminate or minimise the risk of workers falling from height such as adequate policies, procedures, or training to ensure a safe system of work. However, following the incident, the company completely overhauled its safety procedures, including engaging a workplace health and safety consultant to develop inductions, to review the safety systems and to draft a new and extensive SWMS, together with mandating working at height training and the use of harnesses and other controls.

In sentencing, Magistrate John McInnes identified that the point of the legislation was to make workers safe. His honour took into account the guilty pleas and that the director was a person of good character and had embraced the lessons learnt from the incident. However, Magistrate McInnes also considered that the victim impact statement reinforced what can occur from such incidents, as well as the lasting consequences.

The sole director was fined $15,000 and the company $45,000. Costs totalled just over $1,700, with no convictions recorded.

Safe Work Australia release Guide to Managing Industrial Rope Access

Source: Safe Work Australia

The Guide to managing risks of industrial rope access systems was released in June 2022.

An industrial rope access system is a work positioning system used for gaining access to, and working at, a workface, usually through vertically suspended ropes.

Industrial rope access, or, more specifically, ‘twin-rope’ access, is an important method for performing working at height activities and requires a high level of competency on the part of the user. Industrial rope access is a special kind of work positioning system that uses equipment to prevent a fall by vertically suspending a worker in a harness.

The Safe Work Australia Guide to managing risks of industrial rope access provides information on managing the risks associated with industrial rope access systems, including:

  • selection and installation of anchors
  • anchor access and layout
  • anchor inspection and testing
  • rigging techniques
  • rope protection, and
  • exclusion zones.

This guide is for:

  • industrial rope access service providers
  • building managers
  • building owners
  • building body corporates
  • principal contractors, and
  • other PCBSs at a workplace where an industrial rope access system is used.

This document is a guide only. It is not to be used as an industry code. 

As is a guidance document only, it should be read in conjunction with ASNZS 1891 and ISO 22846 as there are inconsistencies between the newly published Guide and Australian Standards. 

Additional guidance on rope access can be found on our website, or by contacting IRATA International.

SafeWork NSW Construction Inspectors are now targeting unsafe rooftop solar installations.

Source: SafeWork NSW 04 July 2022

From June to December 2022, SafeWork Inspectors will be targeting rooftop solar installations across NSW to address serious non-compliance.

In 2021, when checking solar installations SafeWork Inspectors found that an unacceptable 27% of installations were using no roof fall protection at all. Our Inspectors also found that of the 40% of sites that were using harnesses, more than half of these workers were still at risk due the to harness being used unsafely (57%) and/or not actually clipped onto anything (50%). A copy of the findings report can be accessed on the SafeWork website.

SafeWork NSW is working with industry to ensure rooftop solar installation workers are safe when working on ladders and roofs, and with electricity. Roof rails and scaffolds are the best type of fall protection when working on roofs.

SafeWork NSW takes a zero-tolerance approach to workers lives being placed at risk, and will issue on-the-spot fines to installers using no or inadequate fall protection. 

SafeWork NSW has developed guidance materials to assist solar retailers and installers to understand their work health and safety obligations and how to work safely with solar, including a solar safety guide and safety checklist.

SafeWork will be holding online events for retailers and principal contractors, so you can know your safety obligations and ensure your contractors and workers are safe.

Visit the SafeWork NSW website and Guide to safe solar panel installation for more information.