Construction and plumbing companies fined total of $720,000 over Mosman Park Shopping Centre trench collapse

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A construction company and plumbing contractor have been fined a total of $720,000 (and ordered to pay $35,000 in costs) over an incident in which a worker drowned in a trench when a water main burst in 2018.

Ryan and Melissa Pty Ltd (trading as Vivian Plumbing and Civil) pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing the death of an employee, and was fined $600,000 in the Perth Magistrates Court last Friday.

In the same court Badge Constructions (WA) Pty Ltd pleaded guilty as a principal to failing to ensure that any person employed by the contractor (Vivian Plumbing and Civil) was not exposed to hazards, and was fined $120,000. It was not alleged that Badge Constructions caused the death of the employee.

In October 2018, Badge Constructions had engaged Vivian Plumbing to perform various plumbing works on a construction and refurbishment project at the Mosman Park Shopping Centre.

The project included both the refurbishment of existing tenancies and the construction of new tenancies. The plumbing works included installing and connecting a new 225mm sewer pipe to the existing sewer, a task that was being undertaken on October 17, 2018.

A trench had been dug and a trench box was in place. A plumber employed by Vivian Plumbing and Civil was inside the trench box trying to locate the end of a 225mm sewer pipe located at a depth of around three metres when a nearby water main burst and water and sand engulfed the excavation.

The other workers were unable to remove the plumber from the excavation, and he drowned in a mixture of sand and water.

WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said today the case was an example of the failure of two companies to take simple measures to ensure the safety of workers.

“This case involved a very significant incident that resulted in the loss of a worker’s life in really tragic circumstances,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“The court heard that Vivian Plumbing and Civil caused the worker’s death by not taking a practicable measure to protect him from harm.

“The company should have refused to proceed with the work unless the water main was cut and capped or otherwise isolated, a simple method that could have been adopted.

“There was also no rescue plan in place for the excavation site, despite the fact the trench was between 2.2 and three metres deep, significantly deeper than the 1.5m minimum for a rescue plan to be in place.

“Badge Constructions had previously viewed Vivian’s safe work method statement and had failed to ensure that a rescue plan was in place for any excavation of more than 1.5m.

“Another company later completed the job, but that time included emergency response arrangements including a ladder, a spotter and monitoring of the trench by a competent person.

“The safe work method that could’ve been in place on this job was quite simple and would have prevented the loss of this worker’s life.

“Excavations are subject to a Commission for Occupational Safety and Health code of practice and this should be followed at all times. The WorkSafe website also has guidance material on working in excavations that should be consulted.”

Media Contact: Caroline De Vaney 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media queries only).

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Media release
16 Dec 2022

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