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Poor Safety Systems on Site: it will cost you

July 06, 2020

In a recent case, a building company and its subcontractors were fined $620,000 for breaches under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 after a brick wall fell on two workers, killing one and injuring another.

The building company was contracted to build a two-storey duplex. The company hired another building business and it’s Director (subcontractor) to manage onsite activities.

The subcontractor engaged a bricklaying company to build a wall to divide the duplexes. In August 2017, two carpenters were working near the base of the wall. On that day a severe weather system occurred with wind speeds recorded up to 74 km/h. The wall fell on top of the pair, pinning them both. One worker was unresponsive and died at the scene, while the other suffered scratch marks to his face and was treated for shock.

The company had built a 6.5 metre wall that was later found to have been inadequately braced. It was found that each party in the incident was responsible for failing to apply appropriate risk and safety measures, resulting in them failing their duty to protect the workers onsite.

It was found that risks assessments were not completed at this site, nor were temporary supports installed, safe work method statements implemented, or adequate supervision provided to workers.

The bricklaying company was fined $500,000, the building company, was fined $60,000, and the company director of the subcontractor engaged to manage activities was fined an additional $60,000.

This outcome should serve as a reminder of the need to do all you can to protect workers and ensure you check that you have the correct safety systems in place when it comes to high risk construction work.

The SafeWork NSW codes of practice outlines how to manage construction risks in line with the legislation and all employers are responsible for complying with this guidance.

SafeWork NSW have a useful safety guide to wall construction called the ‘Masonry wall safety during construction work’ available here.