The District Court has ordered an employer to pay over $340,000 after a worker was crushed and paralysed by a metal frame. The Court decided that the employer had failed to implement adequate health and safety measures in order to mitigate the risk of such an accident occurring.

Workers were moving the frame on the worksite when a safety precaution failed. The frame slipped, causing a worker to suffer a traumatic spinal cord injury. The worker is now confined to a wheel-chair.

While the workers were moving the frame one of the concrete stoppers slipped. This meant that the metal frame slipped forward, putting the weight of the frame onto one of the workers.

The employer was charged with failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers, so far as reasonably practicable. This is a legal requirement of all Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking.

The employer accepted that they had failed to undertake adequate risk assessments for erecting frames, failed to develop an adequate lift plan and ensure that lift equipment was used, and failed to communicate and monitor the correct safety processes to be followed by workers.

The Court decided that safety steps were overlooked by the employer on the day and the risk was not appreciated, despite it being an obvious risk. The project manager had recommended to the employer that they use lifting equipment, however this was not available to the workers when moving the frame.

Manually lifting the frame was contrary to industry standards, and a WorkSafe assessor found that a proper site risk assessment would have identified that extra equipment was necessary. 

The Court decided that manually lifting the frame should have created a clear risk to the employer of serious injury, and that the failure to address this risk was a breach of the required health and safety standards.

The Court set the starting point of the fine at $475,000. This was reduced to $213,750 after accounting for mitigating factors such as guilty plea, remorse, and remedial steps taken by the employer.

The final amount of the fine was $65,000 after accounting for the employer’s ability to pay. The Court decided that a more significant fine would put the employer at risk of ceasing operations, and such a fine should only be imposed in the most severe of cases.

The Court ordered the employer to pay $110,000 to the worker in reparations for the significant harm caused by their failures, as well as over $165,000 for consequential loss.

It is important to be aware of your health and safety obligations as a PCBU. If you are confused about these obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors