Solar installer fined for unsafe workplace
A solar installer has been fined half a million dollars for failing to ensure a workplace was safe and without a risk to health.
Global Renewable Energy Solutions Pty Ltd was found guilty at Werribee Magistrates Court in Victoria of five charges of failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risk to health.
On June 2019, three workers installing a solar electrical system on a 4.5 metre-high shed at Werribee South, when one fell through a skylight to the concrete floor below.
The worker fractured his spine and pelvis and remained in hospital for more than a week.
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WorkSafe found there was no perimeter guardrail on the roof or fall protection around the skylight, none of the workers were using a safety harness and a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) did not identify that there were skylights in the roof.
A WorkSafe investigation then found the company had engaged in unsafe practices at four further rooftop solar installation sites at Cobram, Truganina, Newham, and Corio in 2019.
Those safety breaches included:
- An unsecured portable ladder was used to access a shed roof at Cobram. The ladder slipped sideways while a worker was climbing down, causing them persistent back pain and shock.
- Workers at a Truganina property alerted management that collapsing roof tiles were compromising their safety. Despite a SWMS that stated “work must cease immediately if [an] incident or near miss occurs” the workers were directed to keep working because the company needed the money.
- Workers were denied use of a scissor lift to safely transport solar panels to the roof of a shed in Newham and were instead directed to carry the panels up an unsecured extension ladder.
- Harnesses worn by workers on a 10-metre-high commercial shed at Corio were not connected to the roof, perimeter guard-railing was not installed around the whole work area and the transparent sheeting on the roof was not covered.
Global Renewable Energy Solutions was fined $500,000 and was also ordered to pay costs of $5613.
To prevent falls from height employers can:
- Eliminate the risk by, where practicable, doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.
- Use a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh, or elevating work platforms.
- Use a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system, to ensure employees work within a safe area.
- Use a fall arrest system, such as a harness, catch platform, or safety nets, to limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall.
- Use a fixed or portable ladder or implement administrative controls.
Master Electricians have unlimited, direct access to the MEA Safety hotline. If you need advice around safety on worksites phone the experts direct on 1300 889 198.