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WA: development company fined $95,000 over serious injuries to worker

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.
Date: 
Tuesday, 28 September, 2021 - 13:00
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Western Australia

A land development company has been fined $95,000 and ordered to pay more than $2000 in costs over an incident in which a worker was seriously injured when a wall and a steel plate fell on him.

Wormall Civil Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace and, by that failure, causing serious injury to an employee, and was recently fined in the Perth Magistrates Court.

In August 2018, employees of Wormall Civil were engaged in civil works for proposed housing blocks at a site in Baldivis, including creating roads and blocks of land and installing services such as sewerage, power and water and installing limestone retaining walls between blocks.

On the day of the incident, several workers were undertaking work to extend sewer inspection shafts in an open trench around 1.8 metres deep beside a partially constructed limestone retaining wall where a steel plate had been used to shore up the side of the trench close to the retaining wall.

At the time of the incident, two of the workers had left the trench when the steel plate and limestone retaining wall blocks collapsed into the trench, and the remaining worker was pinned by the steel plate and several limestone blocks which weighed approximately 250kg each.

An excavator that had been working close to the trench was used to remove the materials from the worker and his colleagues lifted him out of the trench.

He suffered serious crush injuries to his pelvic region including multiple fractures that required the use of steel plates and screws to stabilise his pelvis, and was required to undergo ongoing physiotherapy and other medical support.

WorkSafe WA commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the company had internal policies and procedures to ensure work was performed in a safe manner, but none of them were followed.

“Wormall Civil’s management plan for this site stated that the Western Australian Code of Practice for Excavation would be followed when earthworks were being undertaken, but this did not occur,” Kavanagh said.

“A site drawing specified that no excavation work was to be carried out in front of retaining walls without approval from a structural engineer, and the project manager also warned that it would not be safe to undertake work in the trench without first removing the wall.

“But this was all discarded and the code of practice and internal procedures ignored when the decision was made to use a steel plate as ad-hoc shoring for the retaining wall, not a recognised safe method of shoring as per the code.

“It would have taken around two hours to dismantle the retaining wall, but instead management’s disregard for the safety of the workers that day resulted in devastating and long-term injuries to a young worker.”