Solar installer fined $40,000 for ignoring falls risk

An electrical company in Victoria that repeatedly put workers at risk when working at height has been convicted and fined $40,000.

New Switch Electrical was sentenced in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court after being found guilty of three charges of failing to provide or maintain a safe workplace. The company was also ordered to pay $3959 in costs.

In July 2022, WorkSafe inspectors observed two New Switch Electrical apprentices installing solar panels on the roof of a Wandana Heights home with no fall protection in place.

The court heard the inspectors were told the sole company director was aware there was no falls protection on the 2.7-metre-high roof and had left the workers on site unsupervised, telling them to “keep doing what (they were) doing)”.

A safe work method statement (SWMS) had also not been prepared for the work.

WorkSafe had previously taken compliance action against the company in June 2021, after a New Switch Electrical apprentice was observed installing solar panels on a house with no fall protection or SWMS in place.

The court heard it was reasonably practicable for the company to provide safe systems of work to ensure fall protection measures, such as guard rails, were installed before any work was carried out; to provide adequate supervision to workers to ensure they did not commence work without fall protection measures in place; and to ensure a SWMS was prepared prior to high risk construction work commencing.

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see the very well-known strategies to reduce the risk of falls continue to be ignored, and it’s even more frustrating that this employer had previously acknowledged they understood their safety obligations,” said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety, Narelle Beer.

“The workers involved were young apprentices with their whole working lives ahead of them and it is awful to think their futures were knowingly put at risk because of this employer’s failure.”