Solar installer fined after ignoring seven metre fall risk

An electrical services company has been convicted and fined a total of $32,000 in relation to unsafe work practices on a site in Geelong.


Sentenal Technologies Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Geelong Magistrates' Court last Thursday after pleading guilty to three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The company was convicted and fined an aggregate $30,000 for failing to provide a safe system of work and failing to ensure a Safe Work Method Statement was in place for High Risk Construction Work.

Sentenal Technologies was also fined $2,000 without conviction for failing to comply with a notice under section 9 of the OHS Act and was ordered to pay an additional $7,890 in costs.

The court heard that in September 2021, a WorkSafe inspector observed five of the company's workers removing solar panels from the roof of an industrial warehouse in Corio, the tallest part of which was seven metres high.

None of the workers were wearing available harnesses and there was no edge protection because, although guard rail footings had been installed, no railings were present.

Despite the work constituting High Risk Construction Work due to the risk of a fall from a height greater than two metres, the workers indicated a Safe Work Method Statement had not been prepared due to difficulties with an online application.

An investigation found WorkSafe inspectors had previously discussed fall risks with the company on nine occasions and issued improvement or prohibition notices on five of those.

The court heard that Sentenal Technologies also failed to comply with a WorkSafe order to produce all Safe Work Method Statements regarding the company's work at the Corio warehouse.

WorkSafe Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the risks and too often deadly consequences of falls from height were notorious.

"It beggars belief that safety measures such as harnesses and guard rails were available to these workers but were not being used at the time," Dr Beer said.

"WorkSafe will continue to take strong action against any duty holder who fails to control the very real risk of serious injury or death from working at height on construction sites."

To prevent falls from height employers should:

  • 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.

When undertaking High Risk Construction Work (HRCW), duty holders must:

  • Ensure HRCW is not performed unless a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is prepared.
  • Ensure that once a SWMS has been developed, all HRCW is undertaken in accordance with that SWMS.
  • Stop work immediately, or as soon as it is safe to do so, once they become aware a SWMS is not being followed.
  • Review the SWMS whenever there is a change in the work being undertaken or if there is an indication that control measures are not adequate.
  • A copy of the SWMS must be retained for the duration of any HRCW.