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Trench collapse proves costly

Thursday, 6 December, 2012 - 11:00
Industry news

Two companies involved in a major sewage pipeline project in Victoria were each fined $30,000 after a worker was injured when a trench collapsed.

Di Carlo Drainage and LRM Contractors (Victoria) each pleaded guilty in the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court to two charges under the OHS Act for failing to provide a safe working environment for their own workers, and failing to provide a safe working environment for the workers of the other company.

The court was told that Di Carlo and LRM were involved in a joint venture laying 10km of sewage piping using trenchless directional drilling.

On 20 July 2011, a trench more than 2.5 metres deep was dug in order to correct a problem with the pipeline. An employee of Di Carlo Drainage entered the trench, which did not have any shoring or shields in place to prevent the risk of collapse. He exited about five minutes later without incident.

An LRM employee then entered the trench to work on the pipeline. As he left, the trench wall fell on him, burying him up to his neck. He suffered a broken collarbone, collapsed lung, four broken ribs and required surgery to remove clotting from his lung.

LRM was sentenced (without conviction) to pay a fine of $30,000 and $4643.50 in costs while Di Carlo was sentenced (without conviction) to pay a fine of $30,000 and $4643.50 in costs.

WorkSafe Victoria’s construction manager Allan Beacom said the incident was a reminder of the dangers of working in trenches without essential safety precautions.

“It was fortunate the worker didn’t die in this incident,” Beacom said. “The construction industry knows that trenches are dangerous places to work without full protective measures in place.

“Even if a worker doesn’t die, broken limbs, asphyxia and crush injuries are some of the serious injuries that can occur when a trench collapses. There are specific rules in relation to trench work safety and they must be followed at all times.”