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Date PostedJanuary 27, 2013

White Card Update: Employers Adhere to OHS regulations or Face the Consequences

Employers who think that they can flout the law and OHS regulation are in for a surprise, as a Portland-based plumbing company in Victoria discovered recently.

Employers have a duty to provide workers with a safe working environment and safe system of work that will not risk their health, if workers are working from a height (greater than 2 metres) this includes providing them with fall arrest systems. The Portland company failed to this and found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

As an employer you wouldn’t want an inspector to find any cause for concern on your site. Fines and costs of prosecution can be crippling to a company, so to avoid this ensure that you adhere to all your health and safety duties according to the law, so that workers are kept safe and productive.

Read what this post on SafetyCulture.com.au had to say about the conviction:

worksafe-vic-logoA Portland-based plumbing company was sentenced without conviction to pay a fine of $5,000 with costs of $3,232.

This is after the company pleaded guilty to failing to provide employees with a safe working environment as well as failing to provide and maintain systems of work that were safe and without risks to health.

According to a WorkSafe Victoria media release, a WorkSafe inspector visited a store in Percy Street, Portland when he saw three workers from the plumbing company conducting re-sheeting work on the roof of the store.

The inspector noticed that the workers were working at a height of approximately 5 metres without proper fall protection systems, including scaffolding, safety mesh or other fall arrest devices. He also noticed that there was a risk of tools and other materials falling from the roof and potentially hitting staff and the public.

He issued a Prohibition Notice which immediately stopped work.

The court found that the owner failed to conduct sufficient risk assessment in relation to undertaking roofing works at a height higher than 2 metres. He also failed to implement controls to reduce or even remove the risk of injury or death happening from a fall of height.

Read more at: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/01/plumbing-company-fined-after-worksafe-inspector-visited-worksite/

In 2012 WorkSafe inspectors conducted around 40,000 site inspections which proves that they are indeed on the prowl for any offenders. Inspectors could make an unexpected visit to your site and you will want to ensure that they do not come across any safety breaches. Rather than waiting for a fine or prosecution, or worse the death of an employee, fix any problems or safety loopholes now.

Especially since slips, trips and falls have been identified as the most problematic issue in the construction industry employers must provide adequate protection for staff working from a height, particularly greater than 2 metres high. When carrying out certain dangerous activities, a risk assessment should always be conducted. These risky activities include working on an unstable surface or sloping/slippery surface, work near unprotected edge or opening, work on a scaffold or roof, work on a fragile roof or while using access equipment – all of which can contribute to a fall.

Falls are not the only thing inspectors will be looking out for, so ensure that every aspect of the site has been considered in a hazard identification and a risk assessment has been conducted followed by the development of safe work practices which workers must be trained on. Also ensure that all workers on the site have received general construction safety training in the form of the White Card or you risk finding yourself in the same predicament as the Portland based company above.


Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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