Source: SafeWork South Australia
An Adelaide asbestos removal company has been fined $150,000 after one of its workers fell through the roof of a veranda to his death.
The 58-year-old man employed by Allstar Asbestos Services Pty Ltd was working on a crawl board placed over asbestos roof sheeting, which in turn was resting on timber rafters forming a veranda to a residential dwelling in March 2021.
The rafter immediately below the worker snapped, causing him to fall approximately 2.5 metres through the asbestos sheet roofing onto a concrete slab below the veranda.
He suffered a fatal brain injury.
Allstar was charged under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) following a SafeWork SA investigation.
The case was finalised in the South Australian Employment Tribunal on Friday 10 February 2023 following an early guilty plea.
It was alleged that Allstar had a health and safety duty to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its workers while they were at work.
The deceased worker had been employed by Allstar for almost a decade and had held a Class B Supervisor of Asbestos Removal Licence since December 2014.
A site inspection was conducted by Allstar’s sole director and one other employee at the time.
During the inspection it was identified that a crawl board should be used following concerns over the condition of some rafters above the veranda.
The concerns were further addressed by the placement of a single Acrow prop, a wooden bearer and timber prop under the fascia beam.
Neither the Acrow prop, wooden beam or timber prop were positioned under the rafter that failed, resulting in the tragic incident.
The safe work procedure undertaken by Allstar identified the use of a harness, but one was not provided to the worker for his use at the time of the incident.
In sentencing remarks delivered on Friday, Deputy President Judge Rossi recorded a conviction against Allstar and imposed an initial fine of $500,000, which was reduced to $300,000 following a 40 per cent discount for an early guilty plea.
The fine was further reduced to $150,000 after taking into account Allstar’s inability to pay the full amount due to its limited financial position.
‘The danger associated with working on the asbestos sheeting to the veranda with the minimal propping provided by Allstar was obvious,’ Deputy President Judge Rossi said.
‘At the same time, no fall arrest system was implemented even though the need for one was identified by Allstar prior to the incident.
‘There has been no satisfactory explanation as to how the contravention was allowed to occur in this case, where the risk of falling from a height and measures to address the risk
were identified by Allstar prior to the incident and yet were not satisfactorily addressed.’
Allstar was ordered to pay costs of $3,598 including a $405 Victims of Crime levy.
It has also been directed to produce an educational video outlining the fatal incident, what it has since done to minimise the risk of a recurrence and highlighting the importance of safe systems for working at heights.
Deputy President Judge Rossi said although the penalty should deter a similar lapse in the future, he noted the genuine contrition, the good corporate character of Allstar, and the absence of any prior relevant conviction.
SafeWork SA Acting Executive Director Glenn Farrell said falls from heights, particularly below 3 metres, were among the most common causes of workplace injuries and deaths, all of which are preventable.
‘The lack of consideration and suitable controls to adequately prevent this tragedy is not acceptable,’ Mr Farrell said.
‘All workers and their loved ones should expect employers take reasonable steps to ensure their health and safety, and not to expose them to unnecessary and avoidable risks.’