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$350,000 Fine over steel frame fatality

Monday, October 24, 2011

THE building company responsible for a structure that collapsed and killed a 47-year-old man in Dandenong has been fined for failing to ensure the workplace was safe.

On April 2, 2008, Langwarrin man John Parton was killed when a 200 metre by 100 metre steel frame fell on him at a South Park industrial estate building site.

The principal builder, Australand Industrial Constructions, was fined $350,000 over the incident in the Melbourne County Court last Friday week.

While Australand had subcontracted the construction to Steelfield, which then subcontracted out to A&S Structural Welding without Australand's knowledge, "Australand did not even ask that Steelfield ensure someone was checking and ensuring stability".

Judge Liz Gaynor, in her judgment reasoning, stated the site involved many workers and the potential for harm was high. She the steel structure was insufficiently braced to resist high winds experienced that day.

Australand had introduced a number of steps since then to prevent such an incident reoccuring, and did all it could to support its staff and Mr Parton's family when he died.

"I do note that the site was shut for two weeks immediately after the incident and Australand provided counselling to all employees and some sub-contractors, and that Australand also arranged for a top-up on the minimum insurance that the deceased's employee company had taken out to ensure a maximum payout for the deceased's family," Judge Gaynor wrote in her reasons for sentence.

If Australand had not pleaded guilty, Judge Gaynor would have fined Australand $500,000.

Acting director of WorkSafe's construction and utilities team Allan Beacom said ensuring partially erected structures were stable was a simple step, but one that was often ignored.

"There are a surprisingly high number of structural failures where this simple step has not been done, and in every case, people are at risk," he said. "The incident must act as a reminder to all that fundamental safety responsibilities must be adhered to."

Charges arising from the incident against other defendants are still to be heard.

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