Building company fined for failing on fall risks

An Ocean Grove building company has been fined $52,500 without conviction for safety breaches that exposed workers, including three apprentices to the risk of serious injury from falls from height.


Le Maistre Builders Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Geelong Magistrates' Court to four contraventions of section 21 of the OHS Act, for failing to provide a working environment that was safe and without risks to health and safety.

This included two for failing to ensure fall risks were controlled as far as reasonably practicable, one for failing to provide adequate supervision for employees, and one for high risk construction work on incomplete scaffolding.

Le Maistre Builders was also ordered to pay $4239.30 in costs.

The court heard that in February last year a WorkSafe inspector observed three Le Maistre Builders apprentices working near the edge of a four-metre high double storey house without handrails or other fall protection in place.

At the time the site supervisor had not had any formal training in relation to occupational health and safety and supervising housing construction sites.

The court heard that a second WorkSafe inspector found further health and safety risks at a another Le Maistre Builders site three months later, when he observed wall frames being put up without any external fall protections.

Employees were also seen working from incomplete and unsafe scaffolding, which was missing braces, toe boards and handrails.

WorkSafe Head of Hazardous Industries and Industry Practice Michael Coffey said there were no excuses for failing to protect workers from falls from height.

"Falls are a leading cause of death and serious injury at housing construction sites, and both the risks, and the measures that should be used to control them, are well known," Mr Coffey said.

"It is very lucky that no one was injured, or worse killed at either of these sites".

"WorkSafe will not hesitate to take enforcement action when we see clear safety breaches and we can and do prosecute."

To prevent falls from height employers can:

  • Eliminate the risk by doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.

They can also:

  • Use a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
  • Use a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system.
  • Use a fall arrest system, such as a catch platform or safety nets.
  • Use a fixed or portable ladder or implement administrative controls.