Company fined after inspection fails to pick up faults

Saturday, 13 March, 2004

A project management and engineering company has been fined $8000 for its role in an incident in which part of the first floor of a building under construction collapsed during a concrete pour.

Six people were injured when part of the formwork supporting the first floor level of the building in Doncaster Road, North Balwyn, collapsed on 20 June 2001. All had been working on or under the concrete at the time of the collapse.

Building Operations Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court to two counts of failing to ensure that people other than employees were not exposed to risk arising from their conduct.

The court was told Building Operations Pty Ltd had been engaged by another company to conduct an assessment of the formwork design and on-site inspections of the formwork prior to the concrete being poured. The company responsible for the formwork and propping installation, Pioneer Paving, has since been deregistered and therefore not able to charged.

WorkSafe Victoria Executive Director, John Merritt said it was only luck that had prevented this incident from being a tragedy. "Not only were there significant faults in the formwork, but these were not picked up during a certified inspection by a registered building practitioner," said Merritt.

"Contractors rely on the expertise of engineers in trying to ensure the safety of many construction processes - none more than in the design and construction of formwork that has to support many tonnes of wet concrete." Merritt said civil engineers should know the Australian Standard for formwork (AS 3610) like the back of their hand. "Approving sub-standard formwork and failing to thoroughly inspect the finished product before it is loaded up is courting disaster. "The final inspection process is the last chance to get it right - and it must not be neglected or relegated to a cursory or superficial process." Merritt said formwork and concrete pumping would be targeted next year as part of WorkSafe Victoria's construction and utilities industry program state-wide blitz. "This case ended up in court. It could have easily ended up in hospital - or even worse - for a number of people.

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