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plumbing company fined $90,000 after OHS duty holders failed to consult with each other

10 February 2021
barney adams erin mcleod
Read Time 4 mins reading time

A New South Wales plumbing company has been fined $90,000 for two breaches of its work health and safety obligations.

One of the charges related to its failure to consult, cooperate and coordinate with other duty holders, which contributed to one of its workers suffering serious injuries. The second charge related to its failure to notify the safety regulator after the incident occurred.

the incident

The defendant company, Aceline Plumbing Group Pty Ltd (Aceline), had a referral agreement with Easy Fall Guttering Pty Ltd (Easy Fall) under which Easy Fall workers were illegally engaged to perform plumbing work using Aceline’s plumbing licence.

In May 2017, a trestle placed beneath an Easy Fall worker moved during an installation (performed under Aceline’s licence) and the worker fell onto the concrete edge of the pool below, suffering serious injuries.

On the day of the incident, the worker notified Easy Fall, who notified Aceline’s director. However, Aceline’s director failed to notify SafeWork NSW, which only became aware of the incident several months later through the injured worker.

the breaches

The Court found that Aceline had failed to:

  • consult with Easy Fall and the worker about the risks associated with the installation of the roof guttering and the control measures that should be implemented to manage any risks associated with the job (in particular, the risk of falling from heights);
  • co-operate with Easy Fall and the worker in relation to the provision of temporary work platforms to enable work to be safely undertaken at the site and additional workers to assist with the installation of guttering at the site;
  • co-ordinate with Easy Fall and the worker in relation to the method of work to be utilised for the installation of roof guttering at the site.

key lessons

The duty to consult, cooperate and coordinate with other duty holders is central to workplace health and safety. In many common scenarios, workers engaged by different businesses and entities simultaneously perform separate or related activities at a single worksite.

Consultation and joint planning is crucial to allocate responsibility for the various hazards and risks which are reasonably expected to arise.

Although it is relatively uncommon for employers to be charged for breaches of the consultation duty, this decision highlights the willingness of regulators to pursue appropriate cases. Furthermore, the absence of consultation is often a significant cause of incidents which result in prosecution.

If you would like further information in relation to your work health and safety obligations, or if you require detailed and practical assistance developing and implementing work health and safety policies, protocols and procedures, please contact our Employment, Safety and Migration team.

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plumbing company fined $90,000 after OHS duty holders failed to consult with each other

10 February 2021
barney adams erin mcleod

A New South Wales plumbing company has been fined $90,000 for two breaches of its work health and safety obligations.

One of the charges related to its failure to consult, cooperate and coordinate with other duty holders, which contributed to one of its workers suffering serious injuries. The second charge related to its failure to notify the safety regulator after the incident occurred.

the incident

The defendant company, Aceline Plumbing Group Pty Ltd (Aceline), had a referral agreement with Easy Fall Guttering Pty Ltd (Easy Fall) under which Easy Fall workers were illegally engaged to perform plumbing work using Aceline’s plumbing licence.

In May 2017, a trestle placed beneath an Easy Fall worker moved during an installation (performed under Aceline’s licence) and the worker fell onto the concrete edge of the pool below, suffering serious injuries.

On the day of the incident, the worker notified Easy Fall, who notified Aceline’s director. However, Aceline’s director failed to notify SafeWork NSW, which only became aware of the incident several months later through the injured worker.

the breaches

The Court found that Aceline had failed to:

  • consult with Easy Fall and the worker about the risks associated with the installation of the roof guttering and the control measures that should be implemented to manage any risks associated with the job (in particular, the risk of falling from heights);
  • co-operate with Easy Fall and the worker in relation to the provision of temporary work platforms to enable work to be safely undertaken at the site and additional workers to assist with the installation of guttering at the site;
  • co-ordinate with Easy Fall and the worker in relation to the method of work to be utilised for the installation of roof guttering at the site.

key lessons

The duty to consult, cooperate and coordinate with other duty holders is central to workplace health and safety. In many common scenarios, workers engaged by different businesses and entities simultaneously perform separate or related activities at a single worksite.

Consultation and joint planning is crucial to allocate responsibility for the various hazards and risks which are reasonably expected to arise.

Although it is relatively uncommon for employers to be charged for breaches of the consultation duty, this decision highlights the willingness of regulators to pursue appropriate cases. Furthermore, the absence of consultation is often a significant cause of incidents which result in prosecution.

If you would like further information in relation to your work health and safety obligations, or if you require detailed and practical assistance developing and implementing work health and safety policies, protocols and procedures, please contact our Employment, Safety and Migration team.