KEEP SAFETY IN MIND, IT WILL SAVE YOUR BEHIND

On 27 February 2015, 20-year-old Jason Garrels was fatally electrocuted at a construction worksite in Clermont, Queensland, when he physically held a construction sub-board which was being erected on site in an attempt to comply with an Electrical Safety Protection Notice issued by Workplace Health & Safety Queensland two weeks earlier.

At the conclusion of the Coronial Inquest into Jason Garrels death, the Central Coroner recommended that “if the law does not already provide that the principal contractor, and building contractor, are not obliged to notify the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) of any death or serious injury on site then the law needs to be amended to impose this obligation on them”.

What is a safety matter and what must you do?

Following the Coroner’s findings, the Building and Construction Legislation (Non-conforming Building Products – Chain of Responsibility and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2017 was drafted, amending the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991 (QBCC Act) to include section 54A which places a positive obligation on QBCC licensees to notify the QBCC if a notifiable incident has occurred on a building site under the licensee’s control or on which the licensee is carrying out building work. A notifiable incident includes death or serious injury or illness of a person or an incident that exposes a person to a risk of serious injury or illness.

Section 54A also provides that if a licensee becomes aware that a person who is carrying out building or other work on a building site under the licensee’s control, or a site where the licensee is carrying out building work, has contravened a notice or injunction under part 10 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 or part 11A of the Electrical Safety Act 2002, the licensee must notify the QBCC.

Notification of safety matters must be given to the QBCC in the fastest way possible in the circumstances, by telephone or in writing. The maximum penalty for a contravention of section 54A is 80 penalty units.

Great, more power for the QBCC to discipline you.

Previously, the QBCC could only consider a breach of the QBCC Act in deciding whether to take disciplinary action and was unable to take into consideration convictions under laws that relate to safety in the workplace.

The QBCC is now able to take into consideration convictions under other laws that relate to safety in the workplace, including the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and Electrical Safety Act 2002, or if your work on a building site may have caused the death of a person, grievous bodily harm or a serious risk to the health or safety of a person as grounds for taking disciplinary action. The QBCC may then decide to impose a penalty of up to 200 penalty units, or reprimand, condition, suspend or cancel your licence.

What this means for you:

Failing to provide the QBCC with notice of a notifiable incident can attract a maximum penalty of 80 penalty units; currently one penalty unit is $130.55. Presently, the QBCC is not legislated to issue a penalty infringement notice for a breach of section 54A of the QBCC Act. Consequently, if the QBCC believes that you have failed to notify of a safety matter as required, you may be summonsed to appear in the magistrate court and may face a fine of up to $10,444.00.

Further, if you are convicted of an offence under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 or the Electrical Safety Act 2002 or your work on a building site may have caused the death of a person, grievous bodily harm or a serious risk to the health or safety of a person, you now risk losing your QBCC licence.

Active Law’s construction team are very experienced in all aspects of construction law including statutory compliance and reviews of QBCC decisions, as well as all other aspects of law affecting the construction industry. The construction team at Active Law can swiftly identify your rights and obligations and can ensure you make the best submission possible in your circumstances. Active Law’s Paul Hick is an experienced construction lawyer with 35 years of construction experience. He is also a senior adjudicator under security of payment legislation in numerous states around Australia.

If you are not sure of your obligations under the QBCC Act, please call us.