$220,000 fine after excavation causes next-door building collapse

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Tuesday, 10 March, 2020 - 16:15
Incidents & prosecutions
New South Wales

A company and its director were convicted and face total fines of almost $220,000 after a neighbouring building collapsed due to the company’s excavation works.

A site in Enfield NSW was being excavated in 2016 to develop a six-storey mixed-use apartment block with a two-level underground carpark, but the work led to instability in an adjacent building where, several hours after it stopped, the building collapsed.

Early the next morning, the entire eastern side of the building came down. No one was injured.

Erector Group Pty Ltd and the company director, Mr Rong Feng Wang, pleaded guilty to breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

In the NSW District Court on Wednesday 26 February, the company was fined $180,000 and Mr Wang was fined $36,000.

Valerie Griswold, executive director of investigation and enforcement for SafeWork NSW said it was lucky nobody was hurt.

“It’s easy to see how badly it could have ended if people were inside the buildings,” Griswold said.

“Construction contractors really need to take the advice of their engineers and act with caution.”

In the past 12 months, SafeWork NSW responded to 24 incidents involving partial collapses of structures on or neighbouring building sites.

“In cases where a building collapses and creates the potential for serious injury and death, the fines for breaches of the Act can be significant,” Griswold said.

“While these incidents are rare, when they happen, we take them seriously.”