Tilt-up panel collapse incurs fine

Wednesday, 03 November, 2010

South Australian construction company Stevlyn Constructions received its penalty of a $30,000 fine in the SA Industrial Relations Court, following a trial earlier this year in which it contested two counts of breaching the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986 and was found guilty.

SafeWork SA was able to prove that the company put at risk its own employee and several others when an operation to lift a pre-cast concrete panel went wrong.

The court heard how the director of the company was operating a crane to put in place a panel of concrete walling for the extension of a shopping centre.

During the operation, an outrigger of the crane came off its blocks causing the crane and its load to slowly topple. As the panel came down, it struck another which then broke from its prop and fell to the ground.

In its case to the court, SafeWork SA submitted that:

  • the crane was operating beyond its safe working limits;
  • no adequate hazard identification or risk assessment was undertaken on the task; and
  • there was a failure to ensure the lift was within the safe working limits of the crane.

Industrial Magistrate Michael Ardlie acknowledged there were unusual circumstances behind the incident in that the panels were not able to be positioned in the correct order due to an on-site manufacturing error.

Though no one was injured, he did comment nevertheless that the “potential for serious injury is readily apparent given the weight of the panel and the fact the crane became unstable”.

He convicted and fined the company $30,000 after reducing the amount by $15,000 to account for economic hardship suffered by the defendant. The company has indicated it will appeal.

Notwithstanding this, SafeWork SA is issuing a general warning to the construction industry to be ever mindful of the dangers of working with tilt-up concrete panels.

“Because of the size and weight of these panels, there are often no second chances if one comes loose,” says SafeWork Acting Executive Director Bryan Russell. “Extra safety procedures and precautions must always be in place when undertaking this type of work because the consequences of mistakes or oversights can be tragic and catastrophic.”

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