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Prosecution Details

Defendant Cochrane & Sons Pty Ltd (ACN 000 953 382)
Section 22(1) & 22A(2) 3A(3)(b)(i)
Offence Date 31 May 2011
Description of Breach(es)

The Accused, being a person that has, to any extent, control of a workplace where persons who are not employees of the Accused work or are likely to be in the course of their work failed to take such measures as are practicable to ensure that the workplace was such that persons who are at the workplace are not exposed to hazards, and by that contravention caused the death of a person, contrary to sections 22(1) and 22A(2) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The Accused, Cochrane & Sons Pty Ltd, operates a construction business under the trading name A.J. Cochrane Building.  Adam Cochrane is a director of the Accused.

On or about 4 November 2010 the owners of 1000 acres of rural land in Salmon Gums engaged the Accused to construct a large shed on Wye Farm (the Shed).

Upon completion, the Shed would be constructed to the following specifications (approximately):

(a)           28 metres long;

(b)           18 metres wide;

(c)           roof ridge height of 7 metres;

(d)           Steel frame structure;

(e)           walls clad with Zincalume; and

(f)            roof of Monoclad sheets and polycarbonate skylights.

The monoclad roof sheets and the polycarbonate skylights were approximately 8 metres in length and 860 millimetres wide.

The Shed initially came in a kit ready for construction. The owners had been given the kit as a gift, but with some of the components missing.

The kit for the Shed contained plans which specified that safety mesh was to be installed under the polycarbonate sheets (skylights).  There was also a materials list included in the plans that specified safety mesh was a component of the kit.

The director was in charge of the construction of the Shed on behalf of the accused. The contract for construction of the shed was between the Accused and the owners.

In or around March 2011, the Accused commenced construction of the Shed which initially involved pegging the ground and pouring the footings.  After pouring the footings in March 2011 work on construction of the Shed ceased for several months.

Construction of the Shed re-commenced in May 2011.

As at 31 May 2011, the steel frame of the Shed had been erected and the construction was up to the stage of installing the wall cladding and roof sheeting.

On 31 May 2011 there were 5 workers (worker 1,2,3,4,5) involved in the construction of the Shed. Worker 5 was 45 years old and on the day of the incident it was his first day working for the Accused.

At approximately 10:30am on 31 May 2011, the workers stopped for a smoko. At this stage, approximately half of the roof sheeting had been tacked in to place. "Tacking" is a manner of temporary holding the sheet in position by placing only a small number of screws in the sheet. This could be as little as two screws along each purlin.

Work on sheeting the roof then resumed.

Worker 4 was operating a telehandler lifting stacks of roof sheets up to the roof. This was done by placing a stack of 3 of 4 sheets on the tines of the telehandler (similar to the tines of a forklift) and lifting those tines up to roof level, while the telehandler remained on the ground.

Worker 3 was working out of the scissor lift. The scissor lift was extended up to the gutter line of the roof. From that position worker 3 was placing sheets on to the steel roof frame along the gutter line and tacking them in place.

The Worker 1 was initially working from the sheets that Worker 3 had tacked down and was placing more sheets on the steel roof frame moving up towards the ridge. Those sheets were being tacked by worker 1. As more sheets were tacked in place by worker 1 he would use those sheets as the platform to work from and tack the next sheet.

At approximately 1:30pm, the workers stopped for lunch.

After lunch the worker 1 went back on to the roof to finish screwing off the roof sheets, which means to permanently fix them in place. Screwing off the sheets involves placing screws in every crest of the sheet along each purlin.  When he got up on to the roof, he saw the worker 5 was already there and in the process of screwing off the roof sheets.

Nobody had given the worker 5 a direction to go on to the roof after lunch and screw off the roof sheets.

The only means of accessing the roof was by a scissor lift on site.

Shortly after lunch, worker 2 was working on the ground preparing wall cladding when he was directed by the director to go up on to the roof and help worker 1 finish screwing off the roof sheets.

Both worker 1 and worker 2 say that workers do accidently step onto or fall onto skylights, and they have both either seen it happen or made the mistake themselves. 

As the worker 5 was already screwing off the sheets, worker 1 directed worker 2 to help the worker 5 finish screwing off sheets whilst he started on installing the ridge capping.

At approximately 3:45pm the director went up to the roof using the scissor lift.

Worker 1, worker 2 and worker 5 were working on the same side of the roof.

The director came up to the roof in the scissor lift. He was on the same side as where the three workers were working.

The director asked worker 1 to give him the cutting tool which worker 1 had been using.

Worker 5 asked worker 1 where the screws were for the skylights.

Worker 1 told worker 5 that the screws were on the other side of the roof near the gutter.

The other side of the roof, meant on the other side of the ridge to where they were working.

Worker 1 picked up the cutting tool that the director had asked for and started to walk towards the director who was still in the scissor lift. As worker 1 walked towards Adam he was walking away from worker 5.

Worker 5 went to retrieve the screws. In doing so, he stepped over the ridge cap and onto a polycarbonate sheet.

The polycarbonate sheets were offset so that they did not face each other over the ridge cap, so that worker 5 would have been standing on a zincalume roof sheet on one side of the ridge before stepping over the ridge cap onto a polycarbonate sheet.

The polycarbonate sheet that worker 5 stepped on gave way and he fell to the ground.

Worker 5 fell approximately 7 metres.  As a result of the fall, he suffered fatal injuries.

Between lunch at approximately 1:30pm and the accident at approximately 3:45pm nobody told worker 5 to get off or come down from the roof.

As at 31 May 2011, no safety mesh had been installed underneath the polycarbonate sheets.

Persons, including worker 5, working on the roof of the Shed were exposed to the risk of suffering an injury from falling through a polycarbonate sheet (skylight) (Hazard).

It is common knowledge in the building and roofing industry that skylights are non-trafficable.

The Building Code of Australia requires that a shed roof of a pitch of less than 30 degrees requires safety mesh to be installed under plastic skylights in accordance with AS/NZS 1562 Part 3.

There were no harnesses available on site and none were worn.  There was no edge protection.

It was practicable for the Accused to have done one or more of the following:

(a)            installed safety mesh under the polycarbonate sheeting to mitigate or eliminate    the Hazard; alternatively

(b)           used a fall injury prevention system that mitigated or eliminated the Hazard.

The Accused failed to take any of the practicable measures referred to in the above paragraph.

After the incident, the Accused purchased two roofer's kits, containing static lines and harnesses.  The Accused also purchase two rolls of safety mesh.  The roofer's kits cost $450 each and the Safety mesh cost $80 per 50 metre roll.

The construction of the Shed roof was completed using a static line and harness, as an appropriate fall prevention system.




Outcome Summary

The Accused entered a plea of guilty and was convicted.

Conviction Date 01 Oct 2013
Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Esperance
Fine $65,000.00
Costs $10,000.00
Charge Number ES614/13