In a tragic case involving a fatality, a construction firm has been fined $500,000 for breaches to safety when it had the responsibility to do risk assessments and the right to stop unsafe work.

The construction firm was penalised for breaches to sections 19 and 32 of the NSW WHS Act after a subcontractors actions resulted in the death of a worker.  In setting the fine the Judge outlined that the construction firm was required by both law and contract to conduct daily inspections and should have identified the risk.  Further the Judge identified that the construction firm had the power to stop work and force the subcontractor to meet the required standards, and that they didn’t do these things is the reason for the penalties .  “should have become aware that the risk was present.  It had the power to stop work and compel…to fix the problem”.

The construction firm argued that the subcontractor was a professional firm and that the construction firm was entitled to rely on the subcontractor firm to manage risks to do with their own specialist actions onsite.  The construction firm also argued that it was not practical for them to be involved in all of the operations of the subcontractor firm.  In response to these arguments the Judsge outlined that it was reasonable for them to assess the risk and that they possessed the internal capability to do so, and had they done the assessment they would have identified the risk and could have put into place simple controls that would have prevented the loss of life.

The subcontractor was handed a penalty of $600,000 which was reduced to $450,000 due to their guilty plea.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM &IR)
Executive Manager Employment and Training
ACAPMA

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