02:25 pm, Thursday 21 July, 2011
Last Thursday, the NSW Industrial Court fined a building company and its director a total of $137,500 following a fatal accident in Grafton in 2008.
The deceased, aged 34 at the time of his death, was in his first month of work at the shopping centre construction site when he was struck by a steel concrete mould weighing more than 100kg.
He suffered fractures to his skull, face, spine and ribs, swelling on his brain, significant damage to his spinal cord as well as internal lacerations to his left lung. He died in hospital a few days later.
Justice Marks said the company failed to provide a safe work method statement to its subcontractors for the task of stripping steel column formwork shutters around concrete columns. He said that an acro-prop should have been used to secure the shutters to prevent them from becoming unstable.
The court said there was no exclusion zone in place surrounding the plant and machinery used to lift and move the shutter.
The Judge noted the deceased and his superior had removed several moulds/shutters that morning and the area around the column they were about to strip was uneven and sloping, with loose dirt around the base of the concrete column.
The man removed the bolts connecting the two halves of the steel moulds and connected one half of the mould to a crane-like plant with a chain.
“The remaining half of the shutter was freestanding and was not supported or propped in its position by an acro-prop or other device such as that. The remaining shutter was only held in place by adhesion between the shutter and the concrete column,” Justice Marks said.
“[He] then proceeded to turn and walk away from the remaining shutter with his back to it. However, as [his superior] was in the process of retracting the raised half of the shutter, the remaining half of the column formwork shutter suddenly fell, striking [him] on the head, neck and shoulder.”
WorkCover NSW’s Work Health and Safety Division general manager John Watson said given there was no adequate safety procedures in place, the potential for serious injury was foreseeable and preventable.
“Working in the construction industry can be dangerous,” Mr Watson said. “This is why every precaution must be taken to protect all workers.”
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