Site supervisor fined $10,000 over serious injury to worker

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A site supervisor at a land development company has been fined $10,000 (and ordered to pay $1172.50 in costs) over an incident in 2018 in which a worker was seriously injured when limestone blocks from an adjacent retaining wall and a steel plate fell on him.

Glenn Edwin Rush pleaded guilty to failing as an employee to take reasonable care to avoid adversely affecting the health of another person through an act or omission and, by that failure, causing serious harm to that person, and was fined in the Rockingham Magistrates Court last Friday.

At the time of the incident in August 2018, Mr Rush was employed as a site supervisor at Wormall Civil Pty Ltd, which was engaged in civil works for proposed housing blocks at a site in Baldivis, including creating roads and blocks of land and installing services such as sewerage, power and water and installing limestone retaining walls between blocks.

During a July site walk by the Project Manager, Construction Advisor and Mr Rush, it had been identified that rectification work was required on sewer inspection shafts in six locations on the site.

Several of these inspection shafts were located in open trenches next to substantially constructed limestone retaining walls, and Mr Rush was responsible for ensuring these rectification works were completed.

At a site meeting of senior managers the day before the incident, discussions took place about the hazards involved in excavating close to a retaining wall, and Mr Rush told the other managers he would be using a steel plate as an ad hoc shoring for the retaining wall.

On the day of the incident, several workers were undertaking work to extend the sewer inspection shafts in an open trench around 1.8m deep shored up by a steel plate close to the limestone retaining wall.

At the time of the incident two of the workers had left the trench when the steel plate and limestone retaining wall blocks collapsed into the trench, and the remaining worker was pinned by the steel plate and several limestone blocks which weighed approximately 250kg each.

An excavator that had been working close to the trench was used to remove the materials from the worker, and his colleagues lifted him out of the trench.

He suffered serious crush injuries to his pelvic region including multiple fractures that required the use of steel plates and screws to stabilise his pelvis, and was required to undergo ongoing physiotherapy and other medical support.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said today the company had internal policies and procedures to ensure work was performed in a safe manner, but none of them were followed by Mr Rush.

“The management plan for this site stated that the Western Australian Code of Practice for Excavation would be followed when earthworks were being undertaken, but Mr Rush did not ensure that this occurred,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“A site drawing specified that no excavation work was to be carried out in front of retaining walls without approval from a structural engineer, and the Project Manager also warned that it would not be safe to undertake work in the trench without first removing the wall.

“But Mr Rush discarded all this advice and ignored the code of practice and internal procedures when he made the decision to use a steel plate as ad-hoc shoring for the retaining wall, not a recognised safe method of shoring as per the code.

“It would have taken around two hours to dismantle the retaining wall, but instead a general disregard for the safety of the workers that day resulted in devastating and long-term injuries to a young worker.

“The case should provide a strong reminder to industry that safe work policies and procedures must be in place – and most importantly – should always be followed.”

Wormall Civil Pty Ltd was fined $95,000 over this incident in September.

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

caroline.devaney@dmirs.wa.gov.au

Follow @WorkSafeWA on Twitter

WorkSafe
Media release
10 Nov 2021

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