Tasmanian builder’s sky-high fine after scaffold fall leads to “horrific” worker injury

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
5 Min Read

A Tasmanian building company could be fined up to $1.55 million after a mobile scaffolding fall left a worker with severe injuries.

Macquarie Builders Pty Ltd were found guilty of multiple safety breaches last week after an employee was impaled by a star picket.

The worker was standing on mobile scaffolding to install timber battens as part of a new public toilet at Kingston Beach when the platform toppled over the edge of its supporting ground.

The worker fell directly onto a nearby star picket, which had been placed ready for a concrete pour, causing a “horrific” injury.

The worker landed on a set of star pickets – similar to the ones pictured (Above). 

Macquarie Builders has since been found guilty of multiple health and safety breaches, including failing to secure a worker from the risk of severe injury or death.

A WorkSafe Tasmania spokesperson said the company made several critical errors when setting up the work zone that led to the incident occurring in April 2019.

“Working at height continues to be a significant risk and cause of harm in Tasmania’s construction industry,” a spokesperson said.

“They had not made sure the mobile scaffold was supported by the use of outriggers.”

“They failed to ensure that the worker was not working in the area where star pickets were located within the fall zone. And they did not provide adequate training in the use of the mobile scaffold.

Macquarie Builders were also found guilty of failing to preserve the incident sight, potentially hampering WorkSafe Tasmania investigations.

“All organisations are required under the (Work Health and Safety) Act to preserve an incident scene so it is not disturbed until an inspector arrives on site or releases the scene,” WorkSafe Tasmania said.

The company, which has helped build several government and council projects, could be fined up to $1.55 million when sentenced at the Hobart Magistrates Court later this month.

Often used as a safer choice for ladders, mobile scaffolds are supported scaffolds set on wheels or casters designed to be easily moved.

They are typically used for painting, plastering, and drywall installation, where workers frequently change positions.

A licensed scaffolder is required for the erection, alteration or dismantling of a tower or mobile scaffold where there is a risk that a person or object could fall more than four metres.

Common risk factors that workers remain aware of when using mobile scaffolds include falls from an elevated height, tip-overs, electrocution from nearby wires, structural failures, collapse, and being struck by falling objects.

Build-it recommends undertaking a pre-operation inspection to ensure the mobile scaffold is assembled correctly before work commences and that all scaffold components are functioning safely.

Build-it’s Mobile Scaffold safety checklist

  1. Inspect scaffolding materials before use for structural damage and faults.
  2. Ensure wheels on mobile scaffolds remain locked at all times.
  3. Ensure the scaffold is level and on firm ground with all wheels adequately supported.
  4. Do not use loose bricks or blocks to support or secure the scaffold.
  5. Keep the workplace clean from debris, loose tools or open equipment.
  6. Check weight and height capacity before use to ensure the scaffold is not overloaded.
  7. Use safety harnesses at all times while on the scaffold.
  8. Inspect the scaffold regularly for structural issues and faults
  9. Use scaffolding PPE equipment such as hard hats, high visibility clothing, correct footwear and harnesses.
  10. Never move or relocate a scaffold with people or materials, and never move it in windy conditions.

WorkSafe Australia says mobile scaffold users should assess the work area and job site for health and safety risks
before work begins each time and review the work to be completed on the scaffold to avoid any potential hazards.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.