The Chronicle

Soko fined for fall fail

- DOMINIC ELSOME

A LACK of proper safety measures has cost a constructi­on company dearly after an investigat­ion into a worker’s near-fatal fall at a South Burnett worksite ended in a court date.

Gold Coast-based Soko Constructi­on and Roofing Pty Ltd fronted Southport Magistrate­s Court over a 2019 workplace incident that left a man with a severe brain injury after falling through a skylight.

The company was contracted to replace the roofs on two sheds, including four skylights, at a Bunya Highway property in Kumbia.

One of the employees was on the workshop roof when he stepped on to a polycarbon­ate skylight sheet and fell 4.8m on to the concrete floor on December 2, 2019. He suffered a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury and was flown to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in a critical condition.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigat­ion found Soko hadn’t implemente­d adequate safety measures such as fall prevention devices, a fall arrest system, or safe system of work to address the specific hazard of working around skylights.

The company was charged under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011 with failing to implement appropriat­e control measures to eliminate or minimise the risk of a worker falling through the roof.

This failure exposed those working on the roof to a risk of death or serious injury.

Magistrate Kerry Magee at sentencing took into account the defendant’s early plea, cooperatio­n with the investigat­ion, and lack of prior conviction­s.

Ms Magee also acknowledg­ed that since the offence, the defendant had taken steps to remedy safety deficienci­es by investing in workplace health and safety measures.

She however maintained the risk of falling should have been addressed via a fall prevention device or fall arrest system, and said it was fortunate there were no anticipate­d long-term consequenc­es for the man or his capacity to return to work.

The detrimenta­l impact of Covid and border closures on Soko’s business cash flow, supply chains, and workers was also acknowledg­ed.

The company was fined $50,000 and ordered to pay court costs of almost $1600. Ms Magee also imposed a $25,000 surety attached to a two-year court-ordered WHS undertakin­g. The company would be discharged from the undertakin­g in October, 2023 if no further offences were committed and the undertakin­g was not breached.

No conviction was recorded.

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