Victorian solar installer fined $40,000 for ignoring falls risk

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Electrical services company New Switch Electrical, based in the outer Melbourne suburb of Tullamarine, has been fined $40,000 after pleading guilty in the Geelong Magistrates Court to three charges of failing to provide or maintain a safe workplace. The company has also been ordered to pay an additional $3,959 in costs.

Victoria’s workplace health and safety regulator told the court that in July 2022, WorkSafe inspectors observed two New Switch Electrical apprentices installing solar panels on the roof of a Geelong home with no falls protection in place.

Geelong Magistrates Court heard the inspectors were told the sole company director was aware there was no falls protection on the 2.7-metre-high roof and had left the workers on site unsupervised, telling them to “keep doing what (they were) doing).”

A safe work method statement (SWMS) had also not been prepared for the job.

WorkSafe said it had previously taken compliance action against New Switch Electrical in June 2021 after observing a similar incident in June 2021.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said failing to manage the risks of working at height was a tragedy waiting to happen.

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see the very well-known strategies to reduce the risk of falls continue to be ignored, and it’s even more frustrating that this employer had previously acknowledged they understood their safety obligations,” she said.

“The workers involved were young apprentices with their whole working lives ahead of them and it is awful to think their futures were knowingly put at risk because of this employer’s failure.”

The court heard it was reasonably practicable for the company to provide safe systems of work to ensure fall protection measures, such as guard rails, were installed before any work was carried out. It was also told that it was appropriate for the company to provide adequate supervision to workers to ensure they did not commence work without fall protection measures in place, and to ensure a SWMS was prepared prior to high-risk construction work commencing.

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