An Australian builder was recently convicted and fined $300,000 in the County Court over an incident in which a carpenter died after being crushed by a brick wall on a construction site at Brighton East.
Bilic Homes Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to one count of breaching the 2004 OHS Act by failing to maintain a safe workplace.
The court heard that the incident took place in June 2014 during the construction of two units on a site in Elizabeth Street.
The court was told that the company ordered bricklayers to build the footings and two brick veneer boundary walls of the rear unit, although the subfloor and frame had yet to be built. Building the subfloor and frame first was standard building practice because this allowed exterior cladding, such as brickwork, to be supported.
The southern boundary wall, which was 2.89m high, was built first without incident. The northern wall, which was 2.7m tall and 7.47m long, took two days to build. The brickwork was finished on June 13.
At the time the boundary walls were completed, there was still no frame in place on the rear unit, and the stump holes had not been dug to allow the sub-floor to be laid. The walls were not braced externally because the company had not sought access from the neighboring properties, and there was no interior bracing because an excavator was due to come on the site to dig the stump holes.
Court Told Proper Discussions Never Took Place
The court was told that although the company had ordered the walls to be built outside the normal sequence of construction, the need to brace the walls was never discussed with the bricklayers.
It had also not consulted the contracted engineers for any guidance or documentation associated with the temporary bracing of masonry walls, the leaving of a wall unsupported or an alternative construction system.
On June 23, there was a forecast of severe weather for the bayside area, including strong winds. The carpenter was one of two working on site and, following a discussion with the company owner about the weather, it was agreed that the safest option for both carpenters was to work on the floor of the rear unit.
A short time later, the carpenter was working close to the northern wall while the other was assisting by bringing sheets of flooring to him from a central stack.
After leaving a sheet, the second carpenter had turned and taken three steps away from the area when he heard a loud noise like a strong gust of wind. When he turned back, he saw that the brick wall had collapsed on his work mate.
Author Kori Shafer-Stack, Editor, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in post-injury response procedures and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: email@example.com.
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