Company fined $550K after Delacombe trench collapse tragedy

Wednesday, 17 November, 2021

Company fined $550K after Delacombe trench collapse tragedy

Civil construction company Pipecon Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $550,000 following the death of two workers after a trench collapse at Ballarat in 2018. The company pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing to provide workers with necessary supervision. The workers were laying pipes at a housing development in the Ballarat suburb of Delacombe in March 2018 when the trench collapsed and they were engulfed. A 34-year-old man died at the scene, while a 21-year-old man died in hospital the following day.

During court proceedings, it was revealed that Pipecon could have reduced the risks to health and safety by providing supervision to ensure workers did not carry out work in the trench unless battering or benching of the excavation was in place and/or trench shields and manhole cages were used. WorkSafe Victoria Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the incident has had a significant impact on the community, adding that it demonstrated the extreme dangers involved with high-risk construction work and the consequences of not making safety the top priority onsite.

“WorkSafe will continue to take strong enforcement action against those employers who fail to take every reasonable step to protect the health and safety of their workers so they can make it home to their families at the end of the day,” Beer said.

To manage trench work risks, duty holders are encouraged to ensure a safe work method statement (SWMS) is developed and followed for high-risk construction work, such as when trench depths are more than 1.5 metres or powered mobile plant is involved. An emergency response plan (ERP) should also be developed to deal with potential incidents, with duty holders to ensure that workers are instructed on the ERP and SWMS. Work should be planned so it can be done safely, by ensuring appropriate engulfment protection systems and site security requirements are in place. Duty holders must also ensure a competent person, experienced in trenching works, supervises and monitors the work, and that workers never work outside engulfment control measures where the excavation is of sufficient dimension or depth to allow the entry of a person.

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