Contractor liable for improperly secured work structure
A judgment in a Victorian Magistrate’s Court has highlighted the need for employers to seek engineering solutions when the risk indicates such a control is needed.
In Worksafe Victoria v DWI Pty Ltd (2019), DWI Pty Ltd (the Company) unsuccessfully appealed against a conviction for the collapse of hoarding they had installed which injured members of the public in 2015.
In March 2015, the Company, a manufacturer and installer of hoarding, installed hoarding at a shopping centre in Victoria, attaching the hoarding to a bulkhead at the front of the site.
However, to allow more room for the works, the hoarding later had to be moved further out from the site. The hoarding was later moved out and, as the bulkhead was being demolished, the Company instead attached the hoarding to the ceiling with a wooden brace.
Two months later, the roller door to the loading dock at the rear of the site was removed, which then created a wind funnel into the site. No engineering controls were implemented to deal with the wind funnel and the hoarding later collapsed inwards into the shopping centre, injuring members of the public and causing damage to displays and other shops.
An expert report was prepared by an engineer and WorkSafe Victoria inspectors, which concluded that the collapse of the hoarding was significantly contributed to by the wind funnel from the open loading dock. The expert report suggested that the risk should have been controlled through an engineered solution, with documentation that appropriately addressed, and accounted for, the particulars of the hoarding and the respective wind loading.
The Company pleaded guilty and was convicted by the Victorian Magistrates’ Court. The Magistrates’ Court fined the company $60,000 and ordered the Company to pay costs of $18,217.97. The Company appealed the severity of the penalty but the appeal was dismissed by the County Court.
Employers need to be vigilant about managing the potential impact of any new developments or changes to how work structures are installed to ensure it does not increase the risk of injury to other areas of the site. Employers should also ensure that employees consider all possible avenues of risk, and the suitability of the works to withstand those risks.
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