Solar company fined $35,000 for rooftop fall risk

A solar panel installer has been convicted and fined $35,000 after workers were caught on the roof of a two-storey home in Leopold without fall preventions in place.

AI Solar and Electrical Service was sentenced in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to two charges of failing to maintain a safe workplace. The company was also ordered to pay costs of $4678.

In December 2021, a WorkSafe Victoria inspector saw two workers on the roof, about 5.5 metres from the ground, with no guard railing installed, and only one of the workers tethered to the roof with a loose lanyard.

Access to the roof had been made via a ladder onto the single storey carport then a second ladder from the carport roof onto the second storey, and there was no lifting equipment to assist with moving the solar panels onto the roof.

WorkSafe inquiries revealed that a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) had been prepared which identified guard railing and harnesses as measures to control the risk of a fall from height, but neither were being used, despite guard railing being available on site.

The court heard it was reasonably practicable for the company to reduce the risk of a fall by using passive fall prevention or a work positioning system, such as guard railing or a travel restraint system, and to perform work in accordance with the SWMS.

“This year alone, 369 Victorian construction workers have been seriously injured falling from heights, with many left suffering life-altering injuries,” said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety, Narelle Beer.

“We know how to prevent falls, and we know the devastating cost of not preventing them, so it beggars belief that anyone would ignore safety when working at heights.”