WORK Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe has announced that WorkSafe ACT’s investigation into an incident at the 2012 Canberra Times Art Show has resulted in a successful conviction.
“On 23 July, Mashera Pty Ltd trading as Barlens Event Hire entered a plea of guilty in relation to a charge under section 33 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (The Act), for failure to comply with a health and safety duty,” Mark said.
“A number of people were injured at the Canberra Times Art Show on 11 March 2012, when panels which were displaying the artworks collapsed. Barlens Event Hire had provided the display panels for the event and engaged a contractor to install them. They relied on the contractors’ experience to ensure the structure was stable, and did not give detailed instructions other than the layout of the panels. They did not carry out a risk assessment or conduct any checks of the stability of the structure.
Normally the Art Show is held outdoors but due to the weather on this occasion, the event was moved indoors at short notice to the Federation Ballroom at the Hyatt Hotel.
The time pressures of the last minute change of venue and the limits on access to the Hyatt Hotel until late on the Friday night meant that the subcontractor only finished erecting the display panels at 2:00am on the morning of the art show. Once the display was erected, the artwork was hung on the panels by the exhibitors.
“It is important to note that the principle contractor is being held accountable for this incident. Contractors cannot simply delegate all their safety duties to a subcontractor,” Mr McCabe said.
Following the incident, WorkSafe engaged a structural engineer to inspect the site and provide a report. The results indicated that the panel system was unstable and not strong enough to resist the loads and impacts required for the event. The panel sections were linked which meant that when one fell, the others followed in a domino effect.
At the sentencing on 19 August, the Industrial Magistrate recorded a conviction against Mashera Pty Ltd and imposed a financial penalty of $37,500. The maximum penalty available for this offence was $500,000. The amount was discounted in response to the early guilty plea and assistance and cooperation give to WorkSafe ACT during its investigation.
“This is WorkSafe ACT’s first conviction under the updated workplace health and safety legislation, which was introduced in January 2012,” Mr McCabe concluded.