In August 2015, the company was subcontracted to design and supply pier formwork and headstock falsework at the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing (TSRC). It also provided and erected scaffolding and supplied personnel for work on a number of piers at the viaduct on the construction site.
On 23 April 2018, Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) Queensland inspectors attended the TSRC site and inspected Pier 2 of the viaduct. The inspectors witnessed at least two workers on the pier prior to their inspection. The inspectors climbed the stretcher stairs to the decks of formwork. There were no controls to prevent people from entering the scaffold stairs and accessing the formwork decks.
The inspection and subsequent investigation revealed scaffolding was left in an incomplete state, with missing and unsecured bottom and mid-rails, together with absent scaffold posts and kickboards. The incomplete scaffolding exposed workers and others to the risk of falls from height and the risk of being struck by falling objects.
Safety systems were in place, including a safe work method statement (SWMS), prestart meetings and checklists, together with task risk assessments. Despite these systems, the scaffolding was left in an incomplete state, with nothing to restrict access to it.
Magistrate Howard Osborne of Toowoomba Magistrates Court noted in his sentencing that the defendant’s offending conduct was leaving the scaffolding in an incomplete state and failing to restrict access to it, thereby exposing workers (and others) to risk.
He took into consideration the defendant had no previous WHS convictions, entered a timely plea and was co-operative with WHS Queensland investigators.
He noted that deterrence was an important consideration in assessing penalty, as workplace accidents are prevalent and a message needs to be sent to others that a failure to comply with WHS obligations was a serious matter.
Osborne accepted the defendant had instituted thorough safety systems and the failures related to an isolated case involving two workers and took into account the company had demonstrated remorse and no harm resulted from what he considered to be an offence at the low to mid-range of seriousness.
His Honour imposed one penalty for two charges under sections 32 and 19(1)/19(2) of the Work Health Safety Act 2011, fining the defendant AU$40,000, with no conviction recorded.