A precast concrete manufacturer has been fined $30,000 without conviction for endangering workers by storing concrete panels weighing nearly three tonnes each standing vertically and without support.
Civicast Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 3 April to three charges of failing to maintain a safe system of work and one charge of failing to prepare a Safe Work Method Statement for high-risk construction work.
The charges related to failing to correctly store the concrete panels, failing to regularly inspect and test lifting equipment and failing to manufacture the panels with the required number of lifting lugs.
The company was also ordered to pay $4115 in costs.
The court heard that a WorkSafe inspector visited the company’s Altona North site in November 2017 to follow up on a report that employees were working in an area near 35 large free-standing concrete panels.
WorkSafe’s investigation found the panels were standing vertically, without support and had been manufactured with only two lifting lugs, rather than the four required in the manufacturer’s specifications.
The panels were also being lifted by make-shift methods, rather than using lifting lugs that were called for in the design.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety, Julie Nielsen, said it was only sheer luck that the panels had not fallen on workers.
“The idea of allowing workers to go anywhere near huge concrete panels that have been left standing, on-end, without support is just abhorrent,” Ms Nielsen said
Ms Nielsen says WorkSafe will not wait for the worst to happen when they see situations like this.
“We can and will prosecute employers for putting workers health and safety at risk, even if no injury has occurred,” she commented.
According to WorkSafe, when moving and storing concrete panels ensure:
- The work is planned, including the development of a safe system of work.
- Appropriate supports (designed by a suitably competent person) are used to prevent panels toppling.
- Lifting equipment is appropriate for the task and panel type.
- Work is monitored and supervised by a competent person who is experienced working with concrete panels.
- The crane and other plant are positioned to minimise the risk to workers if the lift fails.
- Workers not directly involved with the work are prevented from accessing the area.