The District Court has recently held that subcontractors are entitled to the same protections as employees after a subcontractor died as a result of falling from a roof.

The subcontractor was working for the defendant company and was required to paint a roof that was 4.5 metres from the ground. While he was painting he fell off the roof and died as a result.

The company had little experience with working at heights, and failed to implement adequate safety measures such as scaffolding, which would have mitigated the risk of death or serious injury. The company also failed to develop and implement a proper safety plan for the worksite.

As a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (a PCBU), the company was required to protect the health and safety of all of its workers, so far as reasonably practicable. The Court held that “workers” include any subcontractors doing work for the PCBU.

The company had clearly failed to implement adequate health and safety measures, which resulted in an increased risk of falling from such a height. The Court determined that this lack of health and safety measures led to the death, and that the company was liable.

The Court also found that the risk of falling was obvious and should have been prevented by the company through safety measures such as scaffolding. If protections had been in place, the worker may not have fallen to his death.

The company was fined $37,500 and ordered to pay reparations of $261,695 to the victim’s family.

The company officers could also have been prosecuted for their failings to ensure the proper health and safety plans were in place, as officers can be personally liable for breaching their responsibilities under the law.

There are important health and safety duties required of PCBUs. If you are unsure of your obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

 

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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors