Teen tradie shot in the head with nail gun finally speaks out

By Jarrod
4 Min Read

A workplace accident on a Melbourne construction site has left a teenage apprentice “terrified” of returning to work after being shot in the head by a nail gun.

Riley Scott, an employee at Topline Carpentry South East in March 2021, was building a door frame at a site in Glen Waverley with another, more experienced colleague. 

The apprentice was building a doorframe with another more experienced worker, who was a plumber and not a qualified carpenter, when a 75mm nail shot out and hit Riley.

The nail was lodged 40mm into Riley’s skull and 20mm into his brain. The then 16-year-old was rushed to the Royal Children’s Hospital to have the nail surgically removed.

According to WorkSafe, Riley also suffered a deep cut to his hand earlier that day after the same colleague threw an electric reciprocating saw at him to catch.

The company neglected to report either incident to WorkSafe, instead removing all tools except the nail gun on the worksite. 

After being alerted by Victoria Police, the work safety watchdog began investigating on-site conduct. 

Riley, now in the fourth and final year of his carpentry apprenticeship, said it was “pretty scary” knowing how close he came to certain death.

“I’m nervous now on worksites. If someone’s using a nail gun, it doesn’t matter if I’m near them, I’m terrified,” Riley said.

“My Dad has been really supportive through all of it. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

In December last year, Topline was sentenced after being found guilty of eight charges, including failing to report both incidents to WorkSafe and obstructing an investigation by concealing the existence of the nail guns. 

Topline was fined $130,000 and ordered to pay costs of $5,715. According to documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Topline went into liquidation in March 2022.

The plumber who threw the saw to the apprentice was also fined $500 and ordered to pay $1000 in costs after pleading guilty to “failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of his colleague”.

Riley’s lawyer, Ruby Robertson, hopes the convictions send a strong message to employers that safety is important in all worksites and even more so with employees under supervision and training.

“Unfortunately, when safety is not a priority in the workplace, or even where there is a relaxed attitude to safety, there can be serious consequences to workers,” she said.

“These types of accidents completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, and people are entitled to the support they need to heal and rebuild their lives after the accident.

“Injured workers have rights to claim medical expenses and lost income for workplace-related injuries or illnesses, regardless of who is at fault.”

Riley also urged other young workers to reach out if they have been injured at work.

“I want other people to know if they’re injured to not be afraid to get help, we all need it and everyone deserves support,” he said.

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By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.

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