The District Court has recently ordered an employer to pay over $155,000 after an employee fell from a height on the work site. In summary, the employer had recognised the height risk but failed to mitigate it.

The employee had been contracted to work for the employer on the worksite to carry out renovations. The employee and a co-worker were undertaking tasks at a height when the employee fell three metres to the ground. The employee broke his collarbone and fractured his wrist.

The District Court found that the employer had failed to:

  1. Undertake a hazard and risk assessment of the task, or provide a safe system of work for the task;
  2. Install edge protection to lessen the risk of a fall from height; and
  3. Ensure the workers were fully informed ,could effectively carry out the work on the roof, and were aware of the risk of falling from a height.

The Court found that the risk of falling from a height had actually been recognised in the employer’s work site risk assessment. The assessment recognised the hazard of working at heights.

The employer had also ordered edge protection to protect workers and mitigate the risk of falling. However, the employer instructed the employee to work at a height before the edge protection arrived and could be installed – ignoring the importance of mitigating the risk.

The employee had also not attended that morning’s work meetings regarding the on-site risk, and was not equipped to mitigate the risk of falling.

The Court accepted the employer’s guilty plea.

The employer had failed to fulfil their health and safety obligations and had not, so far as reasonably practicable, ensured the health and safety of its workers. This failure exposed the employees to a risk of serious injury or death.

The starting point of the fine was $500,000. This was decreased to $150,000 following discounts, including an early guilty plea, remorse, and previous good character. The employer was also ordered to pay $5,000 in reparation to the employee.

It is important to be aware of your obligations as an employer. If you are confused about your health and safety obligations, it pays to seek early advice from a professional to help you meet your obligations and minimise the likelihood on incidents like this occurring.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors