Construction companies fined $250K after concrete blowout

Monday, 13 May, 2024

Construction companies fined $250K after concrete blowout

Two related construction companies, Adcon Vic Pty Ltd and Adcon Resources Vic Pty Ltd, have been convicted and fined a total of $250,000 over a dangerous concrete blowout during work on the Melbourne Metro Rail Project.

The companies were found guilty of five charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act; Adcon Vic was convicted and fined $100,000 for failing to ensure that a workplace under its management and control was safe and without risks to health, while Adcon Resources was convicted and fined an aggregate $140,000 for failing to provide a safe system of work and failing to provide workers with information, instruction and training.

The companies were also fined $5000 each for failing to provide information to WorkSafe Victoria and additionally ordered to pay $4054 each in costs.

Adcon Resources provided labour and concrete formwork plant to Adcon Vic, which was contracted to provide formwork and concrete pour works for the construction of Parkville Station in Carlton. Workers had cast a series of high-tensile Z ties, similar to concrete reinforcing bars, into the floor of the underground chamber to support the base of formwork for a single-sided wall.

During the concrete pour in July 2021, part of the formwork failed, resulting in uncontrolled movement of the formwork and release of concrete. Once the pour had been stopped, it was discovered that one of the ties had sheared off. Without engineering oversight, workers removed the tie and bridged the gap with a steel beam. After the concrete pour recommenced, there were a series of cumulative tie failures, resulting in a blowout of about 15 cubic metres of concrete as workers were evacuated.

An investigation by WorkSafe Victoria found that the Z ties had been welded to the base reinforcing steel instead of being secured with tie holders and that technical specifications for the ties advised that they could not be welded due to their chemical composition. It was reasonably practicable for both Adcon Vic and Adcon Resources to reduce the risk of death or serious injury by ensuring that the formwork was constructed in accordance with engineering drawings and that a pre-pour checklist included checking that the ties were installed correctly.

The court also found that it was reasonably practicable for the companies to ensure that a third-party engineer inspected construction prior to the concrete pour, including checking the use of tie holders as specified in engineering drawings. The companies should have also ensured that bars that were not designed for welding were not welded and that the concrete was at a suitable temperature, as noted on engineering drawings. After any failure of the formwork, the companies should have sought an engineer’s advice to determine a safe response.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said both companies had failed to implement procedures to ensure a safe workplace, adding that a blowout of 15 cubic metres of concrete on a major construction site created significant risk to workers and anyone else in the vicinity. “Fortunately, in this case, no one was killed or injured. But it’s not enough to rely on good luck — employers and those with management or control of a workplace must do everything they can to identify hazards and eliminate or reduce the risks,” Beer said.

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