Alcove Engineering & Construction fined $45,000 over worker’s three-metre fall

Hannah CrossSound Telegraph
 A building company has been fined $45,000 plus $5000 in costs over a workplace incident in Safety Bay.
Camera Icon A building company has been fined $45,000 plus $5000 in costs over a workplace incident in Safety Bay. Credit: JacobStudio/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A building company has been fined $45,000 plus $5000 in costs over a workplace incident in Safety Bay in which a worker sustained serious injuries after falling three metres through a hole on to a concrete floor.

Alcove Engineering & Construction Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment for a person who was not their employee and was fined in the Rockingham Magistrate’s Court last Tuesday.

Alcove Engineering was contracted in late 2018 to undertake home renovations at a Safety Bay property, which involved adding a second storey.

Several subcontractors were also engaged by the company, including a glass company to install double-glazed windows upstairs.

In January 2019, an Alcove Engineering employee and a carpentry subcontractor went to the site to remove a 2.5m x 2.5m portion of the upper level mezzanine floor to prepare for the installation of stairs.

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The carpenter told the property owner he would fit an edge protection handrail to the void the next morning before glass company workers were expected to arrive.

The owner requested a tarpaulin be put over the void to stop wind and rain from entering the lower level, and this was done by the carpenter after consultation with Alcove Engineering’s site supervisor.

A ladder leading to the upper level was also removed and the carpenter assured the supervisor he would be back about 7am the next day to fit the handrail and that no other workers were scheduled to arrive at the property until around 8.30am.

Between 7am and 7.30am the following morning, three workers from the glass company arrived on-site to fit panes to the windows.

The workers accessed the upper floor via the outside scaffolding and the glass was brought up via an outside barrow ramp.

A worker then entered the upstairs sitting room and saw the tarpaulin on the floor.

There was no signage or other indication of an opening underneath and no railing or edge protection preventing access to the hole in the floor.

The worker walked towards an open window and stepped on the tarpaulin, falling about three metres to the concrete floor below. He suffered severe injuries to his elbow and shoulder.

The carpenter arrived at the property shortly after the fall.

WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said he was disappointed there was another serious injury resulting from a fall on a construction site.

“WA has had a Code of Practice for the Prevention of Falls at Workplaces since 2004, and this code provides practical guidance to effectively manage fall risks and should be followed in all workplaces where a risk of falls is present,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“The code is almost 20 years old, so it would be reasonable to think construction industry employers and workers would be familiar with its requirements by now.”

He said it was a “serious failing” that Alcove Engineering’s site supervisor agreed to covering the void with a tarpaulin without any signage indicating there was no floor underneath.

“It was practicable for the Alcove Engineering subcontractor to have fitted edge protection around the void, prevented all access to the second floor, both inside and outside, or to have erected signage to warn of the hazard,” Mr Kavanagh said.

He said Alcove Engineering “failed to take any practicable measures to ensure the safety of the workers” on the site.

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