Building giants fined $150k over subbie’s garbage chute fall
TWO major construction companies have been ordered to pay $150,000 over a “glaringly obvious” workplace oversight that left a subcontractor with spinal injuries.
Ultrafloor Australia and now-collapsed Sunshine Coast company RGD Constructions Pty Ltd were each fined $75,000 plus costs after pleading guilty to failing to comply with health and safety duties.
At Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday, details were aired of how the workplace injury occurred on the Virtuoso unit complex construction site at West End in March 2018.
Benjamin Said, an employee of Steel Construct, was working on the second level of the complex when he stepped backwards while looking for a screw and fell through a covered garbage chute hole.
Mr Said fell 3m to the lower level, fracturing his spine in two places and he later needed bone grafts and surgery.
Magistrate Stephen Courtney said it was fortunate that Mr Said was not more seriously injured.
“The consequences of the risk could have been catastrophic,” Magistrate Courtney said.
“The risk posed by the penetration was glaringly obvious, it should have been identified during the preparation for construction.”
The court heard the 615mm x 750mm hole was covered with two Ultrafloor boards that had “no standing” written on them.
In the weeks before the accident, Ultrafloor had submitted a safe work method statement which was reviewed and revised by RGD Constructions.
The court was told the statement identified the risk of falls on the work site but failed to point out the specific garbage chute void as a potential hazard.
Magistrate Courtney said the swift action taken by the companies to rectify the hazard after Mr Said’s fall showed how easily it could have been prevented.
He said while neither company had prior convictions for similar offending, their duty of care to workers was not something that could be “contracted out”.
“The legislation does not contain a sliding scale of duty of care,” Magistrate Courtney said.
“A duty is either owed, or it is not.”
Last week, Ultrafloor’s barrister Angus Scott said the company, which had operated for 24 years, had pleaded guilty at an early stage and had co-operated significantly with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
RGD Constructions, which went into voluntary administration last month, did not have legal representation when the sentenced was handed down but is also understood to have entered an early guilty plea.
Both companies were also ordered to pay $1500 each in costs but had no convictions recorded.
Originally published as Building giants fined $150k over subbie’s garbage chute fall