Bucic v Arnej Pty Ltd

"Mr Contoyannis gave compelling evidence in this regard. He explained why workers must not be allowed to work on scaffolding that is incomplete".

Case: Bucic v Arnej Pty Ltd

Date of Judgement: 20 May 2019

Court (Location): Supreme Court of Victoria

Expert (for the Plaintiff): Bill Contoyannis, forensic engineer, Dohrmann Consulting

Solicitors: Carbone Lawyers (Plaintiff); Moray & Agnew (Defendant)

Legal Matter: Plaintiff suffered serious injury following falling approximately 4.5 metres from a raised scaffolding bay onto a pile of bricks

Court Decision: Plaintiff awarded $1,043,000

Extracts from Judge Zammit J’s comments in relation to evidence provided by expert witness forensic engineer Mr Bill Contoyannis.

Paragraph 263: Mr Contoyannis, a forensic engineer called by the plaintiff, identified five measures which, in his view, would have prevented the plaintiff’s accident. They were:

(a) making sure there were no ‘live edges’ to any section of the scaffold on which work was to be performed;

(b) inspecting the scaffold each day prior to use to ensure that no sections had been altered;

(c) instructing independent contractors not to use particular sections of the scaffold if they were deficient;

(d) having barriers and signs so that independent contractors could not access sections which, for any reason, were deficient; and

(e) installing steps between work platforms so as to eliminate any climbing.

Mr Contoyannis explained that, for scaffolding to be safe, there should be safety measures so that if somebody is not concentrating and they slip, trip or step backwards, they won’t fall. He opined that scaffolding should always be ‘complete’ because ‘bitter experience [teaches] that it’s the best way to protect people who are performing other duties’.326 Mr Contoyannis considered the scaffolding on the premises exposed the plaintiff to an unacceptable risk.

Paragraph 264: I am satisfied that the defendant breached its duty of care as occupier of the premises by allowing independent contractors and, in particular, the plaintiff to work on scaffolding that was deficient. The scaffolding provided did not have fall protection and was not adequately secured; there were no steps for accessing the raised scaffolding bay; no warning was given to the plaintiff before he used the scaffolding; and, in at least the seven days before the fall, the defendant failed to inspect the scaffolding and have it repaired.

Paragraph 273: Mr Hassan’s evidence was that, had he been aware the scaffolding was deficient, he would not have allowed anybody to work on it. He said he was not aware there were live edges. Despite inspecting the site three or four times a week, save for in the seven days prior to the accident, he was not aware of any deficiencies.

Paragraph 274: Mr Contoyannis gave compelling evidence in this regard. He explained why workers must not be allowed to work on scaffolding that is incomplete: the focus of the person who’s working on the scaffold will be something separate to their environment … They will be concentrating on, as was the case here, cleaning the bricks, drilling a hole, nailing something. Now, with all those activities, there’s obviously a possibility … [that] they stumble. Ah, with hoses and cleaning, there’s a possibility that a hose could loop around the leg and they may stumble. So with any activity, there’s going to be a particular movement, et cetera, which might result in a stumble or a trip or having to step backwards to rebalance, and so, therefore, the scaffold should always be complete because we know, unfortunately, probably through bitter experience … that that’s the best way to protect people who are … performing other duties.

Full court report can be accessed via the Australasian Legal Institute -  Bucic v Arnej Pty Ltd [2019] VSC 330

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