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Wooden wall collapse results in $78K penalty for building company

A building company that constructs temporary wooden hoardings in shopping centres has been ordered to pay more than $78,000 in penalties for an incident in 2015 where one of its structures collapsed and hit five people.

Two shoppers, including a woman aged in her 80s, were struck on the head and had to be taken to hospital. Two other shoppers, one who was hit on the shoulder and one on the arm, were treated at the scene.

DWI Pty Ltd had been contracted to erect the hoarding during a store refurbishment at Cranbourne Shopping Centre in Melbourne. The hoarding it installed was initially attached to a bulkhead that was fixed to the ceiling.

About a week later, the building contractor repositioned the hoarding about 500mm further outwards towards the shopping centre to allow more room for work in the site. As the bulkhead was to be later demolished, the contractor instead used a wooden brace to attach the hoarding to the ceiling.

During the process of the refurbishment, a roller door in the loading dock area at the rear of the store site was removed. This created an area in which a large gust of wind could funnel into the store area.

Approximately five weeks after the repositioning of the hoarding, it collapsed, hitting two display cars, a speciality shop and five passers-by.

After WorkSafe Victoria inspected the site with an engineer, it prepared an expert report that concluded the following:

“The wind load caused by the open loading dock area was a significant contributing factor in the collapse of the hoarding. This could have been addressed by the use of an engineered solution supported by appropriate documentation to address the span and spacing of the hoarding panel framing, the method and number of connections at the top of the hoarding and an engineer’s assessment of the appropriate wind loading for the circumstances of the installation”.

DWI Pty Ltd submitted a guilty plea and was convicted and fined $60,000, plus $18,217.97 costs.

The company appealed the sentence originally imposed by the Magistrates’ Court, however the appeal was dismissed by the County Court and the orders made by the Magistrates’ Court were reimposed.

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