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February 2021

Engineering firm fined $250,000 after excavation and basement works collapse

Engineering firm fined $250,000 after excavation and basement works collapse

The Case

WorkSafe Victoria v Ranjan Fernando Consulting Engineers Pty Ltd (2020)

In 2015, engineering firm Ranjan Fernando Consulting Engineers Pty Ltd (company) certified structural drawings for a mixed commercial and residential development. The drawings included plans for the construction of a two-level underground car park that failed to include a retention system for the excavation.

Five months after the company certified the drawings, the excavation and basement works collapsed after heavy rain, which put nearby dwellings at risk of also collapsing into the pit. As a result, nearby residents were required to evacuate.

The Judgment

The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court found that the company failed to safeguard persons working at the site, as well as those near the site, from the risk of serious injury or death due to wall collapse.

To reduce such risk, the company should have ensured the structural drawings required the concurrent installation of a site retention system, including the installation of bored piers around the excavation site, installation of rock anchors and the progressive installation of concrete infill.

By failing to do so, the company breached section 23 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic), as it failed to ensure that persons other than employees were, as far as was reasonably practicable, not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

The company pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine of $250,000.

The director of the company, Ranjan Fernando, was also found guilty and fined $60,000.

The Lessons

You should be aware of the risk of collapse when conducting excavation works and ensure adequate measures are in place before commencing the work, as well as progressively throughout the works, to eliminate or reduce such risk.

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