Company fined after asbestos removalist fatally injured in fall

Company fined after asbestos removalist fatally injured in fall

A South Australian asbestos removal company has been fined over the death of a worker at a site in 2021. 

The worker, employed by Allstar Asbestos Services Pty Ltd was working on a board, which had been placed over asbestos roof sheeting. The sheeting was on top of timber rafters, which were part of a verandah build. 

The rafter below the worker snapped while he was working, resulting in him falling 2.5 metres through the asbestos sheeting and on to a concrete slab below the verandah, suffering a fatal brain injury.

Allstar Asbestos was the subject of an investigation by Safe Work SA and was subsequently charged under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA).

It was alleged in the South Australian Employment Tribunal that the company had a health and safety duty to ensure so far as was reasonably practicable the health and safety of its workers. 

The site inspection ahead of the task commencing had been conducted by the sole director of the company and one other employee, during which it was noted that the crawl board should be used, noting the condition of some of the rafters. 

The decision was also made to place additional props under the beam, none of which were positioned under the rafter that failed. The inspection and safe work procedure identified the use of a harness, but one was not provided at the time of the incident. 

Deputy President Judge Rossi, in sentencing, noted that the “danger associated with working on the asbestos sheeting to the veranda with the minimal propping provided by Allstar was obvious.”

“At the same time, no fall arrest system was implemented even though the need for one was identified by Allstar prior to the incident. There has been no satisfactory explanation as to how the contravention was allowed to occur in this case, where the risk of falling from a height and measures to address the risk were identified by Allstar prior to the incident and yet were not satisfactorily addressed.”

Deputy President Judge Rossi recorded a conviction and imposed a fine of $500,000, which was reduced to $300,000 following an early guilty plea, and further reduced to $150,000, taking into account the company’s financial position. 

South Australia does not currently have industrial manslaughter laws in place but is taking feedback on draft legislation, with the SA Government committing to “introduce legislation to make industrial manslaughter a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison and significant financial penalties for companies.”

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