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Focus on contractor management in health and safety month

Submitted on Thursday, 11th October 2018

Late last month a Victorian business was found to have failed to provide fall protection for maintenance contractors working on its site and has now been given a criminal conviction, and legally fined $380,000, after a maintenance contractor fell over seven metres through a plant room roof and received fatal injuries.

The County Court found that before the November 2014 incident, WF Montague Pty Ltd had contracted Commercial and Industrial Refrigeration Services Pty Ltd (CIRS) to maintain refrigeration equipment at its cold storage facilities.

At one of the sites, CIRS's director used a scissor lift to access the plant room roof to carry some piping work, the director stepped onto a translucent sheet, which gave way and caused him to fall.

This was found to be a breach of the Victorian OHS Act 2004 in failing to provide or maintain plant or systems of work that were, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.

The County Court found WF Montague was aware of the poor condition of the guttering and parts of the roof due to corrosion but failed to provide fall protection devices like safety mesh, hand railings or fall arrest harness anchor points for people working on their roof, creating the risk of serious injury and death from a 7.4-metre fall.

This case confirms again the safety obligations of employers to independent contractors and their employees or sub-contractors regarding matters under the ‘employers management and control’.

The importance of cross corporate consultations identifying, assessing and ensuring specific and detailed controls are prepared and implemented, in advance of any work commencing is highlighted again in this type of incident.

Had the two organisations made the time to meet and consult together, and effectively identify what hazards were present, and what methods were needed to eliminate or control them, this person’s family, work colleagues and community would likely still have their loved one with them, and the companies involved would not have had to go through the awful and costly investigation and prosecution processes.

Contractor Safety Management is a complex and time-consuming business requirement and deserves a comprehensive and detailed approach through:

  • Job/Project Hazard and Risk review
  • Contractor Pre-qualification
  • Specific Contract OHS inclusions relating directly to the job/project
  • Comprehensive and effective contractor mobilization and site induction processes
  • Design of effective project and contractor supervision, monitoring and feedback methods
  • Detailed and resourced processes for if and when things go wrong

The Victorian Chamber’s Health Safety and Wellbeing team are qualified and experienced in reviewing, preparing and improving your contractor safety management procedures and practices, and upskilling your staff in these complex contractor safety management needs.

To speak to one of our experts about how we can help you with workplace safety please contact us on 03 8662 5333 or hsw@victorianchamber.com.au.

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