Company fined over excavation collapse

A construction company in Victoria has been convicted and fined $ 80,000 following an excavation collapse which caused life-threatening injuries to a young apprentice plumber.

The company pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court to one charge contrary to section 26 of the OHS Act for failing to provide a workplace that was and without risks to health. They were ordered to pay $ 3,505 in costs.

The apprentice and two other contractors attended was in a townhouse construction site in Canterbury to install two pump tanks about two metres from an excavated basement wall.

As they were installing the tanks, the excavation collapsed, leaving the apprentice partially engulfed.

The seventeen-year-old apprentice, who had been in his role for 18 days suffered collapsed lungs, 12 broken ribs, a fractured sternum, damage to his pancreas and a fractured shoulder.

The site has been classified through a geotechnical report as being at high risk of abnormal moisture conditions. The report advised that attention should be given to ensure changes to soil moisture did not develop during construction.

In the days leading up to the incident the site received about 17mm of rain.

The court heard that the company should have supervised the contractors and prevented them from accessing the site until the soil conditions had been properly assessed and the wall stabilised.

“All excavated walls or pits have inherent risks and employers must implement appropriate controls to ensure a safe working environment,” said WorkSafe Acting Executive Director of Health and Safety, Paul Fowler.

“There is little point in obtaining a geotechnical report if an employer does not heed its recommendations and there is no excuse for exposing workers, especially those who are young an inexperienced to the dangers of an excavation collapse.”

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