A building company in Western Australia has been fined $47,500 and ordered to pay $1519 in costs over an incident in which a 3.88-tonne tilt-up panel fell from a building under construction onto a neighbouring car park.
The company, Hanssen, was found guilty of failing to ensure that work was directly supervised by a person who had completed an approved course for managers and supervisors on a site where tilt-up work was being done, and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court.
The company was also prosecuted for failing to comply with an improvement notice requiring it to have at least one member of staff certified as competent by completing an approved Supervise Tilt-up Work course.
In May 2018, Hanssen was the main contractor for the Vue Tower project in Adelaide Terrace in East Perth, a 34-storey residential apartment complex consisting of tilt-up concrete wall panels cast into suspended slab floors.
On the day of the incident, a labour hire worker was working as an unlicensed surveyor, inspecting and co-ordinating construction activities at the site. He was working with another labour hire employee, an apprentice boiler maker.
At the time, the eastern wall of the first floor of the building consisted of tilt-up concrete panels being supported in a temporarily braced position by two props bolted to the internal face of each panel and to the concrete floor.
One of the panels was out of line, and the surveyor decided to use the site’s tower crane to take the weight of the three metre by four metre panel so they could put it back into line with the rest of the wall.
The two men unbolted the timber connecting the panel to the one below, then as the surveyor was leaving the area, he instructed the apprentice to locate the socket needed to unbolt the temporary props.
The apprentice unbolted the temporary props and the panel fell from the building into a car park in the adjacent property, crushing two cars but causing no injuries.
In July 2018, a WorkSafe inspector issued an improvement notice to Hanssen requiring it to have a member of staff complete an approved Supervise Tilt-up Work course. Despite being granted an extension, the notice was not complied with until early September.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the case was yet another reminder of the need for strict requirements around the tilt-up construction industry.
“It’s crucial that anybody working in the tilt-up industry undergoes the appropriate training,” Kavanagh said.
“Tilt-up construction is identified as high-risk work for a good reason, and in this case, it was extremely fortunate that no-one was in the vicinity of the falling concrete panel that day.
“WorkSafe has specific regulations for tilt-up construction, and building companies need to ensure they are complying with the requirements of the legislation.
“Since 2008, there has been a National Code of Practice for Precast, Tilt-up and Concrete Elements in Building Construction that needs to be followed in every workplace where tilt-up construction is taking place.
“Hanssen had previously been convicted of two breaches of the same regulation in 2009 and fined $20,000 per breach for failing to ensure that the appropriate training had been completed.
“The company was also issued an improvement notice in May 2011, once again requiring it to train workers in tilt-up supervision.
“Clearly, the company has not got the message over the ten years since its first conviction under this section of the legislation.
“Tilt-up construction can be a hazardous activity, and it’s vital that both workers and members of the public are protected from any potential incidents involving falling concrete panels.”