In recent times, much has been said about the mounting number of workplace injuries and deaths on building and construction sites throughout Australia.
However, it’s not just on site that injuries happen.
The Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST) was fined $120,000 in the Industrial Relations Court last week after a student was injured in a fall at a TAFE SA campus. The case highlights an important point: construction related accidents can just as easily happen in a training institute as they can on a real live construction site.
The incident occurred at the Gilles Plains campus on November 4, 2009, when a construction student was required to walk across and stand on ceiling beams to help remove a panel.
The student lost his footing and fell 4.5 metres through exposed plasterboard to the floor, breaking several bones and suffering serious and permanent injuries.
In the case, DFFEST, the agency responsible for the TAFE, pleaded guilty to breaching section 22(2) of the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986 by failing to ensure the student’s safety, failing to provide fall protection and failing to conduct and document a proper risk assessment of the task.
While DFEEST conducted an internal investigation and amended its Working at Heights and Hazard Management policies, the court found that these did not go far enough to explicitly state the proper safety measures that would be necessary to avoid a similar incident.
Magistrate SM Liecschke lambasted the TAFE, saying the dangers involved in working with heights in this instance could have been relatively easily addressed.
“This is a very serious offence,” Liecschke says.
In addition to the fine, the court ordered DFEEST to pay $20,000 in compensation to the student.
Construction sites are not the only places where accidents can occur. They can just as easily happen at training institutes.