The defendant held duties under s.19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a person conducting a business or undertaking. It carried out concreting, and was subcontracted to provide concreting services for the refurbishment of a shopping centre.
On Monday 28 October 2013 a suspended slab being poured collapsed. Two of the defendant's workers fell approximately 4.5m along with concrete slurry and BONDEK formwork and sustained injury.
The workers were pouring concrete into suspended steel BONDEK formwork to seal an opening from a redundant stairwell, located on level 3 of the construction site. The slab had been approximately 60-70% poured when the BONDEK gave way.
The reason for the failure of the BONDEK slab was that the distance of the span exceeded the distance for unsupported (un-propped) BONDEK. It should have been propped with temporary acro props. The concrete slab (as poured) was 240mm thick. The thickness was intended to be 150mm. The BONDEK Manual span tables show that for a single span where visual appearance is not important, the maximum span for a 240mm thick slab without a temporary prop is 2.15m. For a 150mm thick slab the maximum allowable span without a temporary prop is 2.5m. The actual span was 3.45 metres.
The primary fault of the defendant was allowing the pour to proceed without engineering sign-off (contrary to the defendant's own Safe Work Method Statement). In this case, there was no design signed-off by the engineer or formwork designer. The BONDEK formwork was installed by another company prior to the incident.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on 22 June 2016 to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet its work health and safety duties and was sentenced. Magistrate Belinda Merrin fined the defendant $20,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1082.20. She further ordered four of the defendant's workers attend an appropriate training course before 30 December 2016. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate noted that the real culpability of the defendant was less than comparatives suggested. The defendant had gone ahead with the pour on the instruction of the Principal Contractor's foreman, and assumed it had the go-ahead. The Magistrate noted that the company had been in operation for 30 years without incident and of its own volition put its workers through a fall from heights training program and amended its safe work procedures to ensure this type of incident did not reoccur.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Merrin took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach and fully co-operated with the investigation.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
In the construction industry there will be work requiring involvement by multiple duty holders. A consultative approach will be required in order that expertise is pooled and appropriate processes adopted. As a matter of statutory law this is required by s.46 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. If duty holders can appropriately consult, more serious offences may be avoided.
- Date of offence:
- Brisbane Magistrates Court
- Belinda Merrin
- s.32 of the duty under s.19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Fined $20 000 plus training order
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: