The District Court has ordered two companies to pay over $540,000 after a builder fell from a height, causing paralysis.

The builder was working on the second floor of a construction site. There was no protection around the sides of the construction site. The builder fell three metres to the ground below, breaking his spine and causing him to be paralysed.

The builder requires a wheelchair and is no longer able to work in the construction industry.

The District Court had to determine whether each of the companies, acting as a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking, had breached their duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers.

The Court decided that the injuries suffered by the builder were “entirely preventable”. There were obvious risks relating to a fall from a height, and the companies had failed to ensure that necessary controls were in place to reduce the risk.

The Court also decided that the measures needed to prevent the risk were “inexpensive, easy to obtain and easy to set up”. The Court determined that simple guarding would have been enough to prevent the fall.

Guarding was installed after the incident, which emphasised the preventability of the incident. The companies were found to have both breached their health and safety duties.

Further, one of the companies was at the time of the accident on notice to improve its health and safety measures. This was an aggravating factor against decreasing any penalty imposed on the company.

One of the companies was ordered to pay a fine of $258,000 and the other $175,000, as well as over $105,000 in reparations to the victim.

It is important to be aware of your health and safety obligations. If these companies had met their obligations this tragic accident could have been prevented. If you are confused about your responsibilities as a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan Connors