A carpentry company has been convicted and fined $90,000, and the company director $21,000 following an apprentice worker falling from height of more than three metres resulting in serious injuries.

In December 2018 an apprentice carpenter fell over three metres onto a concrete surface from the first floor of a residential building.

The worker was undertaking wood framing on the first floor of a residential building at the time. The worker was walking backwards unrolling some building material and fell through an unprotected and uncovered void, where a stairwell was to be installed.

The injured worker was hospitalised with spinal and pelvis injuries requiring surgery.

The worker had been employed by the carpentry firm for approximately nine months.

SafeWork SA investigations identified that the incident could have easily been avoided had a safe work method statement and pre-start checks been undertaken in relation to controlling the risks of working at live edges.

The risk of falls had not been identified and no fall protection had been installed prior to the work task being undertaken.

Matt’s Carpentry Pty Ltd was charged with failing to:

  • provide and maintain a safe working environment
  • ensure a safe system of work for the task undertaken
  • perform an adequate risk assessment and identify the hazard of working near an unguarded void
  • ensure appropriate control measures were in place to eliminate or reduce the risk of fall.

Matt’s Carpentry Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the South Australia Employment Tribunal (SAET) for breaches of their duties under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA).

The South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) convicted Matt’s Carpentry Pty Ltd and imposed a fine of $90,000 ($150,000 before 40% discount for early guilty plea) plus costs.

Matthew Pincin, as the director and supervisor, was charged for failing to:

  • ensure appropriate hazard and risk assessment processes were in place for the task to be undertaken.

Both the company and director's failures exposed the worker to a risk of serious injury or death.

SAET convicted Matthew Pincin and fined him $21,000 ($35,000 before 40% discount for early guilty plea) plus costs.

SafeWork SA Executive Director, Martyn Campbell said apprentices look to their supervisor for guidance and assistance in learning how to undertake their job safely and competently.

‘It is a significant responsibility for any employer and I strongly remind businesses with apprentices and trainees to understand their obligations under South Australian work health and safety laws’, said Mr Campbell.

‘The Construction industry is at greater risk of serious injuries associated with working at height. SafeWork SA 2020 data relating to falls from heights identifies carpenters are most at risk.

Inspectors from SafeWork SA are currently conducting compliance audits on falls from heights in the residential construction industry and incidents such as this reinforce my zero tolerance to sites that do not take the risk of falls seriously’, said Mr Campbell.

The second defendant submitted that no conviction be recorded. Deputy President Magistrate Cole took into consideration the defendant’s genuine remorse and the significant changes and improvements, however acknowledged the worker ‘sustained a serious injury which was preventable’.

He further stated that ‘not recording a conviction would fail to reflect the seriousness of the breach in this case’.