The RGD Group office at Lake Kawana. Picture: NRM
The RGD Group office at Lake Kawana. Picture: NRM

Companies face fine after worker falls into garbage chute

TWO major Queensland companies could be ordered to pay up to $230,000 after a worker broke his back when he fell through a garbage chute hole on a luxury Brisbane apartment worksite.

Now-collapsed Sunshine Coast company RGD Constructions Pty Ltd was the principal contractors on the West End unit complex and in 2018 the embattled group engaged Ultrafloor Australia Pty Ltd to provide flooring.

In March 2018, an employee of subcontractor Steel Construct was working on the second level of the complex when he stepped backwards through a covered garbage chute hole and fell 3m.

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The worker fractured his spine in two places and later needed bone grafts and surgery.

Ultrafloor's chief executive Alan Morrison pleaded guilty in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Tuesday to failing to meet its work health and safety duty of care.

The court was told RGD Constructions, which went into voluntary administration last month, did not have the funds for a legal team but had also pleaded guilty to failing to comply with health and safety duties.

 

RGD Group director Ron Grabbe in better times for the major building company. Picture: Cade Mooney
RGD Group director Ron Grabbe in better times for the major building company. Picture: Cade Mooney

 

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland prosecutor Jacqueline Ball requested the embattled company be fined up to $110,000 and Ultrafloor pay up to $120,000 for the breach.

She said the higher fine was to recognise that Ultrafloor had employed the subcontractors and were overseeing the employees at that time of the accident.

RGD Constructions "had management of the site but Ultrafloor at the time this occurred were undertaking the relevant work at that level and were engaged in the supervision of those workers," Ms Ball said.

The court was told that the 615mm x 750mm hole was covered by two Ultrafloor boards and had "No standing" written on them.

In the weeks before the accident, Ultrafloor had submitted a safe work method statement which was reviewed and revised by RGD Constructions.

The court was told the statement identified the risk of falls on the work site but failed to point out the specific garbage chute void as a potential hazard.

Ultrafloor's barrister Angus Scott said the longstanding company had made meaningful attempts to comply with its duty, but had unfortunately fallen short.

"This breach has not come about from a disregard, rather it is an oversight by Ultrafloor who is otherwise diligent in their approach to health and safety," he said.

Mr Scott said the company's "swift and comprehensive" steps to address the issue after the incident and early guilty plea spoke to Ultrafloor's character and remorse.

He argued $65,000 was more appropriate and asked the magistrate not to record a conviction against the company, that had no prior history of failing in its duty of care.

Ms Ball said RGD Constructions also had no prior convictions for failing to meet its duty of care.

The company went into voluntary administration in May after citing coronavirus effects, tight lending conditions and a "financially catastrophic" Brisbane project as causes of the collapse.

Magistrate Stephen Courtney reserved his decision until next week.

Two other defendants, Steel Construct Australia and Simon Epraim Newitt, will face court next month over the accident. - NewsRegional



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