Building company fined after tilt-up panels collapse

Thursday, 3 May, 2012 - 10:00
Incidents & prosecutions

A building company was fined $15,000 after four concrete tilt-up panels collapsed at a Perth construction site in 2008.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that the removal of temporary bracing of the concrete panels was in accordance with relevant Australian Standard.

According to investigations, four labourers were working with the panels and removed six braces before the panels collapsed. Relevant Australian Standard requires that tilt-up structures be inspected to ensure that the structure is safe before removing braces. An inspection is usually done by the designer or an authorised agent. A written approval to remove the braces is given to the builder.

The Perth Magistrates Court found that the panels were not inspected to ensure that it was already safe to remove the braces. There was also no written approval given to do so. It was also revealed that at the time of the incident, it was not the company’s usual practice to seek approval before removing braces, which is contrary to Australian Standard.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said that the case should serve as a reminder for companies not to take tilt-up construction lightly.

“Tilt-up construction is high-risk and the regulations are there to ensure that the risks are avoided, or at least kept to a minimum,” said Mr McCulloch.

“In this case, there was a high risk of serious injury or even death of any of the labourers had been struck by the falling panels.

“With work like this, it is imperative that everyone understands their role and at what stage in the process it is safe to remove the bracing so the panels do not collapse.

“An enormous amount of time and resources has been invested in lessening the risks involved in tilt-up construction over recent years, and it is disappointing to see that some operators are still not complying with the laws.

“A comprehensive code of practice on tilt-up and precast concrete construction has been available for some years, and copies of the current code should be made available on all sites where tilt-up work is taking place.”

The construction site’s supervisor was fined $60,000 over this incident in July 2011.