No risk assessment costs worker his life and company huge fine
An industrial rope access company has been fined $250,000 and its director $30,000 following the death of a worker at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.
On 5 November 2015, contractor Simon Vovard plummeted 17 metres to his death after removing himself from abseiling ropes while cleaning duct work under the roof of the convention centre. A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found Mr Vovard had stepped on an access inspection hatch that hadn’t been identified - the hatch was not load bearing and he fell through it.
It was alleged the specialist company hadn’t carried out a basic risk assessment of the confined space which would have identified the duct work and inspection hatches were not loadbearing. Appropriate controls such as using an elevated work platform or providing information to the workers so they knew the ductwork wasn’t load bearing (and not to remove themselves from the safety ropes) were not in place.
The company delivered work as rope access technicians and tasks were performed at height using rope access and abseiling equipment. In its favour, it employed experienced and qualified rope access technicians.
As the defendant did not appear at the sentence hearing on 5 June, mitigation centred on the company having no prior convictions. Magistrate Mark Howden fined the company $250,000 and ordered court costs of $1,089. No conviction was recorded.
He also found the director did not use due diligence to ensure his company carried out an adequate risk assessment to identify the duct work was not load bearing and subsequently advise workers of the danger.
Head of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Dr Simon Blackwood said a basic business principle was not followed through and a young man lost his life.
“The golden rule for those operating a business – you must provide safe working environments,” Dr Blackwood said.
“Before starting any work, you must always identify possible hazards, evaluate the consequences and likelihood of harm, and then put control measures in place to prevent or minimise the risks.
“In this case, a reasonable risk assessment would have ensured a safe working environment and Simon Vovard might be alive today.”
The company director was fined $30,000 and ordered to pay court costs of $1,000. No conviction was recorded.
More information on industrial prosecutions is at worksafe.qld.gov.au