Big fine for workplace fall

AN Ocean Grove builder was convicted and fined $25,000 over an incident in which a plasterer suffered severe spinal injuries and a fractured skull after falling more than two metres from a work platform.
Vand Builders Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court to one count of breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The builder was also ordered to pay $4000 in costs.
The court heard that in 2015 the company was contracted to build two adjoining double-storey townhouses at Ocean Grove, engaging Precision Plastering Pty Ltd for plastering work.
A truck delivering more than 40 sheets of plaster to the site in September 2015 became bogged so workers unloaded it by hand using a steel scaffolding work platform.
The sheets were passed hand to hand by seven workers to a second-floor balcony.
The court was told that the 2.1 metre high platform had no guard rails.
A sub-contractor for Precision Plastering asked for some form of fall protection but Vand Builders added a piece of frame to only one side of the platform.
However one of the largest sheets, weighing 40 kilograms, snapped as it was being moved and the subcontractor fell through, landing on his head, fracturing his skull and breaking his spine.
In his victim impact statement read to the court, the subcontractor said the fall had left him with a range of physical and emotional problems.
He said he needed crutches to move and a wheelchair for longer distances, and struggled to engage in family social activities.
He had five children under the age of 12 and was no longer involved in their sporting events due to mobility and anxiety issues.
“I have no sense of pride any more, struggling to get my head around the fact that I have a permanent disability for the rest of my life,” he said in his statement.
WorkSafe health and safety executive director Marnie Williams said the man’s life had been changed forever because Vand Builders had not made safety a priority.
“The company had prepared a Safe Work Method Statement but had failed to follow it, and the result has been devastating for this man and his family,” Ms Williams said.
Ms Williams said the fact that the worker had to make a request to the company to employ basic safety measures on the platform was staggering.
“In this case, guard rails and edge protection should have been provided for all sides of the work platform where there was a risk of a fall,” she said.
Precision Plastering has also been charged over the incident and will face court at a later date.