Workers on an ACT construction site were lucky to escape unscathed after a 2 storey dirt embankment collapsed over the weekend, thankfully it wasn’t a week day or workers would probably have been injured.
The accident happened on a Belconnen apartment building construction site, the same site which was the source of concern for union members last month who protested over what they claimed was safety breaches.
A section of the new five metre excavation pit subsided after heavy rains fell on the weekend – a lesson to other construction workers about the need to guard against such hazards.
This post from Canberratimes.com.au explains what happened:
Construction, Forestry, Mining, Energy Union ACT secretary Dean Hall said that had the wall collapsed while workmen were in the vicinity, the outcome would have been disastrous.
“They are just bloody lucky this happened over the weekend.”
The wall has been the subject of ongoing objections by the union over a lack of adequate shoring.
The union made several complaints to Work Safe over the past weeks as well as last month organizing a work shut down and protest at the site, in which the Australian Federal Police were called by principal contractor Creative Building Services to remove approximately 25 protesters.
No arrests were made.
Mr Hall said “we had concerns right from the start that the excavation and shoring on this wall was wrong.”
The work was subsequently signed off on by a geotechnical engineer.
ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said his inspectors had attended the site on several occasion over the past few weeks following union complaints and “we sought assurances from their geotechnical engineer about the viability of the wall, which we had received”.
WorkSafe has now asked the company for a new independent geotechnical report and is likely to issue prohibition notices on the site when the inspection is completed later on Monday.
Apparently the wall’s instability had been caused by a lack of required tiering and capping. According to the company all the necessary precautions had been taken and the incident was the result of soil erosion which caused the wall to shift and the fall because of rainfall over the weekend.
The union however is not happy with the company’s explanation and claims the wall supports were not installed because the company was trying to save costs.
The company however defended their actions saying that anchors could not be used so they opted for a different wall system which was inspected by a Work Safe and approved by a geotechnical engineer under strict protocols for operating in the rain.
Apparently workers would have had to stop work if it rained regardless of whether it was a weekend or weekday so no one would have been injured even if it was a weekday because work would have stopped as soon as the rain began. The company also said that a very small amount of the embankment fell which was unlikely to seriously injure anyone, you be the judge – below are 2 photos which depict the embankment before and after the collapse: