Builder, scaffold business fined more than $60,000

Two Melbourne companies have been ordered to pay a total of $62,000 in fines in relation to scaffolding at a Bentleigh East development site.


CORRECTION: WorkSafe acknowledges that an earlier version of this media release incorrectly stated that B Central Constructions Pty Ltd had been convicted on this matter. In fact, no conviction was recorded against this company.

Whineray Consulting Pty Ltd, trading as Topscaff Scaffolding, was found guilty of three charges, including two of failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace, and one of failing to ensure people other than employees were not exposed to risks posed by scaffolding at the Oslo Apartments Project.

The court heard scaffolding at the site was seen leaning towards overhead powerlines during wind gusts that peaked at 57km/h on October 6, 2016.

Plywood had also been attached to the outside of the scaffolding, increasing the chances of it collapsing in strong winds.

WorkSafe found Topscaff had failed to calculate wind and impact loads on the scaffolding and had not obtained engineering advice to address the risk.

It was convicted and fined $45,000 and ordered to pay $4,699 in costs.

At a separate hearing, B Central Constructions Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace by not providing adequate protection for pedestrians passing below the building as it was under construction.

The court heard a site inspection conducted by WorkSafe in August 2016 found there was no overhead protection, exclusion zone or alternative path provided.

At the time, structural work on the third level was overhanging the footpath, exposing pedestrians to falling objects.

It was fined $17,000 without conviction and ordered to pay $4089 in costs.

Both hearings, which concerned separate issues on the site, were heard at the Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court.

WorkSafe Acting Executive Director Health and Safety, Paul Fowler, said erecting safe scaffolding should be a top priority at all building sites.

"Scaffolding failures can have catastrophic consequences for both workers and the general public," Mr Fowler said.

"Employers must protect workers from the risk of falling from height, and workers and the general public would rightly expect that when they pass by a building under construction they will be protected from falling objects."

"As these prosecutions demonstrate, WorkSafe will not wait for a tragedy to occur before it takes enforcement action on serious safety breaches."

Tips for maintaining safe scaffolds include:

  • Ensuring scaffolding is erected by an appropriately trained/licensed person
  • Inducting all workers into the site rules for scaffolds, such as a ban on unauthorised modifications/alteration
  • Providing warning signs and barriers to restrict access to incomplete scaffolds
  • Using scaffolding only for the purpose for which it was designed
  • Identifying, removing or replacing damaged scaffolding
  • Maintaining ‘No Go Zones’ around power lines during scaffold erection and dismantling activities.