A construction company in Victoria was recently convicted and fined $50,000 over an incident in which a concrete truck tipped over and seriously injured a worker after unknowingly setting up on top of a temporarily covered ventilation shaft.
The company, Ducon, was found guilty by the Melbourne Magistrates Court on one charge of breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 for failing to ensure the workplace was safe. It was also ordered to pay $20,000 in costs.
The company was the principal contractor at the construction site of a 36-story apartment block at Hughesdale in Melbourne’s south-east.
The court heard that a shaft, which was to be fitted later with a ventilation system for an underground car park, was covered with 100mm of concrete which made it appear like part of a capping beam.
A capping beam is a solid concrete structure supported by piles and is commonly used as a place for heavy machinery with outriggers such as cranes and concrete pumping trucks to be set up.
The court heard that Ducon knew that the shaft had been covered in concrete but failed to mark the location.
On 5 April 2012, the subcontractor engaged to fill columns at the site with concrete was advised by the site foreman to set up their concrete pumping truck on the capping beam.
A worker was on a mobile scaffold, holding and directing the concrete pour hose into the columns when an outrigger stabilising the truck penetrated the 100mm layer of concrete over the shaft.
It tipped the truck over, causing the boom to come down and hit the scaffold where the worker was standing.
The worker suffered a fractured spine, crushed right hand, broken right ankle and foot. He also required skin grafting.
The company had failed to visually identify or barricade the location of the ventilation shaft at the construction site, said WorkSafe executive director of health and safety, Marnie Williams.
“Covering a shaft with a thin layer of concrete, presumably to prevent people from falling into it, created a new hazard because it actually looked like part of a capping beam,” Williams said.
“There was an obvious risk of serious injury or death. The company failed to ensure that the workplace was safe by not clearly identifying this to workers at the site.”
Williams said construction site safety was a priority for WorkSafe.
“Construction is a high-risk industry and employers must do everything they can to ensure construction sites are managed with the health and safety of all employees in mind,” she said.
“We are planning to conduct more than 13,000 site inspections across the state this year and we will continue to drive home to employers that the safety of every worker must be their number one priority.”
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