Crane collapse onto building lands company with $225K fine
A structural engineering company has been fined $225,000 after a tower crane collapsed onto an apartment block in Wolli Creek, injuring three workers. SafeWork NSW investigated the company, S&T Services Pty Ltd, which pleaded guilty to a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 in the NSW District Court.
The company had been engaged to design a large steel cantilevered grillage, to support a tower crane at a construction site in Wolli Creek. In the final stages of erection of the tower crane on 6 August 2017, three workers had just installed a counterweight and were slewing 180 degrees to pin the jib when the right-hand corner of the grillage the crane was sitting on gave way; the opposite corner then also gave way and the crane fell. It landed on an apartment block across the road.
Three workers were able to jump off the crane onto the building’s rooftop when the tower crane fell. Injuries were sustained by all three workers, with two of the workers not being able to return to rigging work. The incident resulted in the evacuation of more than 100 residents from surrounding buildings, which lasted for several days.
The design of the grillage was not sufficient to support the total weight of the tower crane, the NSW District Court found. Additionally, the calculations for the pin connection points were incorrect; only hand calculations were made and, although available, computer modelling was not undertaken. In its finding, the Court noted that the risk was obvious and foreseeable — the tower crane could collapse if the design of the grillage was not adequate to support the intended fully erected tower crane.
Valerie Griswold, Executive Director, Investigations & Enforcement at Better Regulation Division, said this case sends a strong message about the need for safety in the construction industry. “SafeWork NSW has a zero-tolerance for workers or the public being put at risk of serious or fatal injuries through unsafe practices,” Griswold said. “This is the first time Safework NSW has brought charges under section 22(2) of the Work Health and Safety Act, which relates to a failure by a designer to ensure that a structure is designed to be without risk.”
S&T Services Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $225,000 and ordered to pay the prosecutor’s costs. The company has since ceased to trade and they have the option to appeal the decision.
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