Easy OHS

Subcontractor fined over involvement in fatal wall collapse in Melbourne

Friday, May 22, 2015

A magistrate has found a sign installer guilty for his role in the collapse of a brick wall in Melbourne that killed three people, and issued him with a $7,500 fine.


The court ruled that sub-contractor Jonathon Westmoreland could have ensured that a building permit was in place before erecting a sign on the brick wall of a construction site.

In March 2013, the sign on Swanston Street toppled over in 100 kilometre per hour winds which brought the wall down with it, killing siblings Bridget and Alexander Jones, and French researcher Dr Marie-Faith Fiawoo.

In delivering her verdict, Magistrate Carolene Gwynn said: "I'm satisfied there was no deliberate actions taken by Mr Westmoreland to avoid his responsibility."

But the magistrate said he did have a responsibility to find out about the permit.

"The obligation on him was not to carry out works unless there was a permit," Magistrate Gwynn said.

She also said he could have checked for a building work permit through a council registry.

Last month, Westmoreland – who pleaded not guilty to the charge – told the court he was just a labourer and believed the appropriate permits had been obtained before he did the work.

His defence counsel argued the responsibility for applying for a permit lay with the developer, Grocon.

Grocon was fined $250,000 last year for breaching workplace safety laws.

The court heard Westmoreland was totally distraught by the incident, had questioned himself every day since and was still receiving counselling over the incident.

WorkSafe gave evidence it took the watchdog 18 months to unpick who was in control at the site.

It said it has launched proceedings against Grocon and others.

Courtesy:  ABC News
EasyOHS Comment: The risk assessment process in this instance was inadequate. The risk of the signage on the brick wall was not identified as having the potential for the wind loading or 'sail' area it may create. The risk of objects being subjected to wind on construction sites is well known, and is a key factor when crane lifting operations are being undertaken. In addition storage of materials / and the potential for items to become 'airborne' during high wind is always a factor when considering lay down areas and storage of materials. We recommend a careful risk assessment, which should start from outside the work area - including site security, fencing, stability of structures, traffic access / egress, power lines, potential interactions with surrounding equipment or structures - and that is before we even set foot inside the construction site. There are a number of good site inspection documents available and a sample is shown from the CFMEU website by following the link here: HSE Worksite Audit
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