It is not enough to blame unsafe stairs
A subcontractor who blamed unsafe site conditions for an injury to one of it’s workers has been criticised in the NSW District Court.
Freyssinet Australia Pty Ltd, a firm specialising in steel fabrication, claimed the principal contractor at a construction site provided inadequate fall protection after one of their team fell under the top rail on a stairway and sustained serious injuries.
However, the judge found Freyssinet failed to ask the principal contractor to install adequate edge protection on the stairway, or direct its workers not use the stairway until it was fixed. Every employer has a non-transferable duty of care to ensure a safe workplace for its employees and cannot simply assume another party has done this.
Note: The principal contractor was prosecuted and fined over this matter previously.
The lessons from this case are clear:
- Even if another party has been prosecuted you still have your own duty of care to fulfil.
- If you have people working at sites controlled by others you still have a duty of care, as far as reasonably practical to ensure safe conditions.
This could be achieved by training your field staff in how to inspect their own work areas and instructing them to not proceed if conditions are unsafe.
The training should also include the local hazard reporting and interim action procedures, and escalation process if there are any delays. To learn more about managing contractors in training, see below.
Case reference SafeWork NSW v Freyssinet Australia Pty Ltd (2017) NSWDC290.