Recycler fined $140,000 after wall collapse

Tuesday, 18 November, 2008

An incident in which a woman and her son narrowly escaped serious injury when a boundary wall collapsed into a car park at Taren Point, South Sydney, has resulted in recycling company Visy Paper being fined $140,000.

Visy pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 10(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 for failing to ensure that persons located in the adjacent car park were not put at risk by the collapse of the boundary wall on 20 January 2006.

Evidence was heard from a WorkCover NSW engineer that the poor construction of the boundary wall and the weight of stockpiled recycling material stacked against it was sufficient to cause the section of the wall to fall. This evidence was supported by an independent engineer’s report, which stated: “We question how the wall has managed to stay vertical as, in our opinion, even when subjected to the most moderate of lateral loads, it would have collapsed.”

The WorkCover investigation identified the potential for the wall to collapse in February 2004 — almost two years before the incident. In response to a WorkCover Improvement Notice, Visy developed a system of work to prevent recycling material being stacked higher than a two-metre high concrete barrier, located inside the boundary wall, to prevent contact from front end loaders.

However, despite being aware of this risk, Visy failed to provide the necessary training, instruction and supervision to ensure that it did not occur. At the time of the collapse, recycling material was stockpiled above the barrier to a height of seven metres against the wall.

In handing down his judgement, Industrial Court president Justice Boland said that Visy’s failure to prevent stockpiled recycling materials being piled against the wall had “created grave consequences for safety”.

Justice Boland ordered Visy to pay half of the fine and costs to WorkCover.

WorkCover NSW CEO Jon Blackwell commented: “The incident that led to this prosecution could have been avoided if the company had followed the advice given by WorkCover. It was sheer luck that someone was not killed or seriously injured. Visy has made major improvements to its OHS procedures to ensure that such an incident does not recur and we trust that the company will maintain its new system so that any future safety risks are identified and eliminated.”

 

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