Developer fined for serious safety failures

A property developer has been convicted and fined $125,000 for putting workers and the public at risk of serious injury or death.
News article published

Thursday 06 Feb 2020

Industries and topics
  • Construction
  • Fall prevention
  • Slips, trips and falls
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Mainline Developments Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court to four charges over safety breaches during the construction of a residential complex at Narre Warren.

The court heard WorkSafe inspectors observed numerous and repeated safety breaches on six separate visits to the site between 15 January and 15 March 2018.

The safety breaches included a lack of controls to prevent workers falling from the balconies, first floors and roofs of the townhouses under construction and workers using sections of scaffolding with missing planks.

Multiple trucks were observed reversing into oncoming traffic to enter the site via a busy single lane road and unloading without any traffic management to reduce the safety risks.

The site had poor general housekeeping including open trenches, unhygienic toilet facilities without water or toilet paper and no meals area or facilities for workers.

Inspectors also found the site lacked a safe system of work in relation to electricity and had a number of tripping hazards from excess debris and general rubbish in access areas.

The court heard Mainline repeatedly failed to implement most of the reasonably practicable control measures identified in the 10 improvement notices issued by WorkSafe inspectors during the visits.

The company was on Friday fined $50,000 for failing to ensure the means of entering and leaving a workplace was safe; $40,000 for failing to provide a safe working environment; $25,000 for failing to comply with improvement notices; and $10,000 for failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks.

In sentencing, the judge took into account the company's two prior convictions from 2016 relating to working at height and traffic management issues.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said the company's blatant disregard of its duty to provide a safe workplace for its employees was abhorrent.

"All of the problems identified at this site could have been easily fixed at relatively little cost, but the company instead repeatedly ignored directives to fix them and has now suffered the consequences," Ms Nielsen said.

Ms Nielsen said the convictions and fines should send a strong message to all employers that it's not just a workplace injury or death that can get them in trouble.

"Everyone has the right to be safe at work and WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute employers who expose their workers to potential serious injury or death, even when that risk does not eventuate."

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

Traffic related risks should be controlled by:

  • using appropriate physical barriers where traffic and/or vulnerable road user diversion onto roadways cannot be avoided
  • providing appropriate, clear signage about changed traffic conditions
  • identifying where there is likely to be risk to pedestrians and cyclists safety from trucks and other vehicles entering and exiting the site
  • following a Traffic Management Plan