Solar installer fined $500,000 after string of safety breaches
A Victorian solar installer has been fined $500,000 for a string of workplace safety breaches, including a 2019 incident where a worker suffered serious injuries after falling through a skylight.
Melbourne-based solar installer Global Renewable Energy Solutions Pty Ltd has been convicted of five workplace safety breaches at sites across Victoria and ordered to pay $500,000 in fines. The company has also been ordered to pay costs of $5,613.
Werribee Magistrates Court on Monday heard three workers were installing a solar PV system on a 4.5-metre high shed at Werribee South in June 2019 when one of them fell through a skylight to the concrete floor below.
The worker fractured his spine and pelvis and spent more than a week in hospital.
WorkSafe Victoria said there was no perimeter guardrail on the roof or fall protection around the skylight, none of the workers were using a safety harness and a “method statement” did not identify skylights were in the roof.
It also ruled Global Renewable Energy Solutions had in that same year engaged in unsafe practices at four other rooftop solar installation sites at Cobram, Newham, Corio and Truganina.
In the Truganina incident, Worksafe said workers had told management that collapsing roof tiles were compromising their safety but had been directed to keep working because the company needed the money.
Andrew Keen, WorkSafe’s executive director of health and safety, said the company had shown a continued disregard for its workers’ safety.
“This case should serve as a wake-up call to any employer that thinks it can put profits above the safety of its workers,” Keen said in a statement.
The court decision comes after the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) confirmed it is investigating a Perth-based solar module retail and installation business over an alleged $2.5 million fraud involving the federal government’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES).
The CER said Australian Federal Police earlier this month executed a search warrant at the business premises as part of an investigation into the alleged falsification of documents required under Western Australian (WA) electrical licensing laws.
The CER – which recently recommended major reforms for Australia’s rooftop solar PV industry, including that it be solely responsible for the enforcement of regulations in relation to accredited installers, retailers and component manufacturers – alleges the false documents were used to gain a benefit under the SRES.
Investigators allege that false documents were created for more than 640 solar panel systems installed across WA since 2018, resulting in the potential wrongful creation of an estimated $2.5 million in small-scale technology certificates (STCs).
The CER said the installer of the solar PV systems is a licenced electrician and accredited under the rules administered by the Clean Energy Council (CEC) but alleges that neither the installer nor the business had the necessary electrical contractor’s licence required under state law.
“We will not tolerate falsification of documents to gain a benefit,” CER executive general manager Mark Williamson said in a statement.
While the investigation is continuing, the CER said there is no allegation at this stage that the systems installed by the Perth-based business are unsafe or not operating as they should.