A company in Victoria which altered the design of and subsequently overloaded scaffolding has been fined $170,000 after pleading guilty to two workplace safety charges in Victoria’s worst-ever scaffold collapse.
The scaffold collapsed onto Commercial Road, Prahran in February 2009, and while it resulted in only three injuries, it seriously damaged parked vehicles, brought down tram and powerlines and blocked Commercial Road for several days.
CCTV footage tendered in evidence showed a bus, a pedestrian and two bicycles passing the scaffold moments before it came down.
In sentencing Asian Pacific Building Corporation, Magistrate Jan Maclean found the scaffolding structure was overloaded with bricks and that the design was changed without reference to the designers or a qualified engineer.
The Magistrate said that while the company had undergone a cultural shift since the incident, the safety breaches were grave and that it could not be said to have been a momentary or transitory lapse in its system.
Although the original design did comply with Australian Standards, WorkSafe Victoria’s investigation found the scaffolding that remained standing after the incident had missing or damaged components and in places was severely overloaded.
The collapse had the potential to cause multiple deaths and was Victoria’s worst-ever scaffold collapse, according to the acting-director of WorkSafe Victoria’s construction and utilities division, Allan Beacom.
“The site workers were on their morning smoko break and it is just good luck that a tram, bus or other vehicles were not directly under it,” he said.
There were three bricklayers who were working on level four when the scaffold fell and were injured as a result.
“It is not uncommon for small changes to be made to scaffolds as work proceeds, but any change must be reinstated as quickly as possible,” he said.
“Unfortunately scaffold collapses are not uncommon.”