Coggins v NQ Roofing
This is a decision of a Queensland Magistrate concerning a workplace safety prosecution under the Queensland Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 (QLD), s.24.
The facts are that NQ Roofing engaged a subcontractor named Mr Robert Moore. His job was to install tiling on a timber roof frame. Prior to the tiling being installed cross battens were to have been installed. These battens would have been no more than 600mm apart. The distance between them was critical as that gap would not allow a person working on the roof to fall through the roof.
However in this case the batten fixers had fallen behind in their work and had not fixed battens to the timber frame at all.
On 3 June 2009, Mr Moore was working on the timber frame when he fell through the roof onto the concrete slab floor sustaining severe injuries which rendered him a paraplegic.
NQ Roofing was prosecuted for a breach of s.24. NQ Roofing raised a defence under s.37(1)(a). That defence was that they had taken the relevant steps to prevent or minimise exposure to the relevant risk.
The Magistrate went through the steps taken by NQ Roofing in some detail. The Magistrate found that they had firstly identified the risk, as being a fall from height and they had communicated this by means of a Work Method Statement that they had then determined what control measures would be in place. That is, NQ Roofing had determined that before anyone could go onto the roof, the cross battens had to be fixed into place. Further, they had implemented the control measure by having Mr Moore sign a Periodic Subcontract Agreement which contained conditions that he would have to comply with all reasonable instructions of NQ and specifically that he had a site specific induction with regard to the houses under construction.
Lastly, the Magistrate was also impressed by the fact that the onsite supervisor had in fact discussed the failure of the batten fixers to attend with Mr Moore prior to Mr Moore deciding to go onto the roof. During the course of that conversation Mr Moore had indicated that he would not be able to go up onto the roof because the batten fixers hadn’t attended. The site supervisor agreed that that was the appropriate course. When the site supervisor left he was under the impression that Mr Moore did not intend to go onto the roof. The site supervisor gave evidence which was preferred to the evidence of Mr Moore that if he had known that Mr Moore was to go up onto the roof without the cross battens being in place he would have stopped him.
The end result was that the Magistrate discharged NQ Roofing from the charges as he found that the defences were made out.