The ACT Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by a local electrical company that was fined after an electrical apprentice fell while installing solar panels on a roof.
The company had appealed against the severity of the fine imposed following a successful work safety prosecution.
A WorkSafe ACT investigation found that the apprentice, who fell more than three metres, was using an unsecured ladder, did not have his safety harness connected and was not properly supervised at the time.
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The apprentice’s employer, A1 Electrical, was subsequently prosecuted under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to meet its safety duty and potentially exposing him to a risk of serious injury.
In November last year the ACT Magistrate’s Court fined the company $140,000. The maximum penalty under the Act is $1.5 million.
The company appealed against the decision on the basis that the penalty was manifestly excessive. This appeal was dismissed last Wednesday (6 July).
In handing down the decision, Justice Michael Elkaim took into account the company’s early plea, cooperation with the authorities, and looking after the apprentice’s interests after the incident. They also took steps to improve their safety systems.
Acting Work Safety commissioner Brett Phillips said the judgement reinforces an employer’s obligation to provide a safe working environment, particularly for young apprentices.
“It certainly highlights the need to ensure proper training and equipment is provided when working at heights, and to make sure apprentices are properly supervised at all times. Every worker has the right to a safe work environment and to come home safely.
“WorkSafe ACT remains firmly committed to the ongoing safety of workers in the ACT and will continue to vigorously implement the recommendations of the Getting Home Safely report, including prosecuting those who contravene the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 whenever appropriate.”