Companies fined $250,000 after concrete blowout

In a recent ruling at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, both Adcon Vic Pty Ltd and Adcon Resources Vic Pty Ltd were held culpable for five infringements relating to the Work Health and Safety Act. The Court found that Adcon Vic was unsuccessful in providing a dependable work setting void of potential health risks under their stewardship, consequently incurring a $100,000 fine. On the other hand, Adcon Resources was convicted and penalised an aggregate total of $140,000 due to their lack of providing a trustworthy system of work along with deficient communication, education and training for their personnel.

Further penalty charges of $5,000 were levied on each company for their failure to conform with the mandate to deliver essential information to WorkSafe. The court also ordered them to bear costs amounting to $4,054 each.

The circumstances involved Adcon Resources supplying manpower and concrete formwork equipment to Adcon Vic. This collaboration was intended for construction of Parkville Station in Carlton, featuring formwork and concrete pour works. The areas of focus included high tension Z ties, similar to concrete reinforcement rods which were integrated into the subterranean chamber’s floor, meant to buttress the base structure of a single-sided wall.

However, during the concrete pour process in July 2021, a part of the formwork defected, making way for unplanned motion of the formwork and subsequent release of concrete. This was traced back to a sheared off Z tie, which workers replaced by bridging the gap with a steel beam, unfortunately without engineering surveillance.

Upon resuming the concrete pour, cumulative failure of ties was observed, manifesting in an eventual blowout of approximately 15 cubic metres of concrete, leading to the evacuation of all workers.

The ensuing investigation from WorkSafe discovered that the Z ties had unadvisedly been welded to the base reinforcing steel rather than securing them with tie holders. It was found that these ties weren’t designed to withstand welding due to their chemical makeup.

The court stated that both companies practicably could have controlled the risk of severe injuries or fatalities by leaning on key work safety tools like Bluesafe WHS Management Systems, SWMS and relevant policies, underscoring their utility in managing and mitigating occupational risks.

Narelle Beer, WorkSafe’s Health and Safety Executive Director, expressed dissatisfaction regarding both companies’ failure to enforce protocols safeguarding workplace security. Dr. Beer emphasised,”A blowout of 15 cubic metres of concrete at a key construction location immensely endangers workers and others around, which is intolerable.”

“Although no casualties occurred this time around, we cannot gamble with luck. It is incumbent upon employers and personnel overseeing workspace environments to actively spot potential hazards and do everything feasible to nullify or lessen associated risks,” she added.

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