Painter fined over skylight fall

A painter and decorator has been convicted and fined $40,000 after a sub-contractor was seriously injured on a property near Strathmerton in 2018.


Adam Raymond Nelson pleaded guilty in the Cobram Magistrates' Court last Wednesday to two charges of failing to ensure persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the conduct of the undertaking of a self‑employed person.

Nelson was also ordered to pay costs of $3,574.

The court heard Nelson engaged the sub-contractor after being hired to paint two houses and two sheds at Ulupna Island Station in September 2018.

While preparing paint on the roof of one the sheds, the sub-contractor stepped backwards and fell through a polycarbonate skylight, landing on a metal cattle fence 5.5 metres below.

He suffered a lacerated spleen, two broken ribs, a punctured lung, several fractured vertebra and a compressed spinal cord.

An investigation found there was no guarding on the edge of the shed's roof or mesh underneath the skylights to prevent a fall from height, and no harnesses were being used.

Nelson provided investigators with a Safe Work Method Statement which addressed control measures for working at height; however it was not site specific and failed to identify the fragile skylights as a potential risk.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said there was no excuse for working at such heights without having control measures in place.

"It's up to all employers, including sole traders, to ensure they assess each and every safety risk in the workplaces they control," she said.

"This employer decided not to use appropriate fall prevention devices despite knowing the clear dangers, and their sub-contractor is now dealing with the catastrophic consequences of that failure."

To prevent falls from height employers can:

  • Eliminate the risk by, where practicable, doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.
  • 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, to ensure employees work within a safe area.
  • Use a fall arrest system, such as a harness, catch platform or safety nets, to limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall.
  • Use a fixed or portable ladder, or implement administrative controls.