Metal fabrication business fined $35,000 over spinal injury fall

A metal fabrication subcontractor has been convicted and fined $35,000 after a worker was seriously injured when he fell four metres at a site in Tullamarine, Victoria.

Karagata Australia was sentenced in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing, so far as reasonably practicable, to maintain a safe working environment. The company was also ordered to pay costs of $5000.

The court heard that two workers and the company director were installing a mesh walkway on a mezzanine level at Melbourne Airport in December 2021, working from an aluminium plank that was resting on – but not fixed to – metal beams.

When the plank overturned, one of the workers fell through a ceiling panel onto the floor four metres below. He was taken to hospital, suffering multiple injuries, including fractures and spinal injuries.

A WorkSafe Victoria investigation found the company had failed to eliminate or control the risk of a fall by using a fall arrest system, such as a crash deck.

The court heard it was also reasonably practicable for the company to have had a Safe Work Method Statement that sufficiently described measures to control the risk of falling and how they would be implemented and to ensure high-risk construction work was carried out in accordance with the statement.

“It takes just seconds for a worker to fall, and the consequences can be devastating, including shocking injuries and loss of life,” said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety, Narelle Beer.

“More than 160 workers have already been seriously injured falling from heights this year, yet despite the well-known risks, we still see people working at heights without appropriate protection, often with terrible consequences.”