Read Builders and Winery fined over Wirra Wirra collapse text version

Media Release - SafeWork SA

Thursday 25 November 2010


Fines totalling $355,000 have been imposed on three companies by the Industrial Court today over the collapse of massive fermentation tanks at the Wirra Wirra winery in March 2008. A&G Engineering Pty Ltd, A&G Engineering (SA) Pty Ltd, and RG & RT Trott Pty Ltd had already pleaded guilty to breaching sections of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 relating to the design, construction and erection of the tanks, and failing to ensure the safety of employees. SafeWork SA prosecuted the three companies after investigating the catastrophic collapse of 15 fermentation tanks at the McLaren Vale property, an incident described to the court as a `domino-effect' which happened in just 10 to 20 seconds. A&G Engineering Pty Ltd designed and manufactured the six new 30-kilolitre tanks, which were erected on site by local subsidiary, A&G Engineering (SA) Pty Ltd, on behalf of the client, RG & RT Trott Pty Ltd, which operated the Wirra Wirra winery at McLaren Vale. The court was told that seven people were at risk of harm in the collapse, but cellar hand, Greg Lane, then 19 years old, fared the worst, sustaining serious injuries including a torn aorta, broken ribs, a punctured lung, fractured vertebrae and shoulder blade. He suffers ongoing psychological trauma and his lifestyle has been severely affected by his injuries. In its submissions, SafeWork SA told the court of multiple safety shortcomings in the project by all three parties: · · · · · · · · No consideration that the foundation slab was able to support the new structure No consideration to the footings requirements of the new tanks Failure to obtain any professional engineering advice Failure to provide load calculations and footing requirements Unsuitable methods of anchoring the structure Failure to use a licensed building works supervisor for the installation Failure to pass on design information to the installers about the slab Failure to obtain development and building approval.

The court heard that the slab was subjected to forces more than five times greater than what it was designed to withstand. Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke described the offending of A&G Engineering Pty Ltd and A&G Engineering (SA) Pty Ltd as "extremely serious":

[more] For further information contact Peter Adams, Chief Media Adviser, SafeWork SA Ph: (08) 8204 9430 or 0434 603 861 Page 1 of 2

" appears there were no policies or procedures directed to ensuring their structures had adequate foundations. Furthermore it was their actual practice not to actively consider... the issue of the foundation of these structures... "These offences put the lives and health of at least six men at grave risk and caused extremely serious injuries to one of them. They built a structure... without sufficient regard to the most basic and obvious issue of its safety..." In light of their guilty pleas and cooperation with authorities, Magistrate Lieschke imposed convictions and fined A&G Engineering Pty Ltd $135,000 after a 10% discount and A&G Engineering (SA) Pty Ltd $108,000 after a 10% discount. The Magistrate also ordered the companies to publish an account of their offending in an "appropriate wine or beverage industry journal" as he is entitled to do under s60A of the Act. Magistrate Lieschke also described Trott's offending as "extremely serious", saying "it had little regard for the structural stability of its newly-erected workplace on which... it expected employees and contractors to work. "For unexplained reasons it adopted an extremely casual approach to this project... the very poor assumptions... right up to Board level is surprising in the context of such a large addition of plant to the winery." He imposed a conviction and fined RG & RT Trott Pty Ltd $112,000 after a 20% discount for its guilty plea, contrition, cooperation and remedial action. The outcome is welcomed by SafeWork SA, and Acting Executive Director, Bryan Russell said it brings to a close a complex investigation. "Design specifications from the manufacturer were examined, evidence of construction methods was collected, samples of soil and concrete were analysed and even CCTV inspection of drainage systems was undertaken. SafeWork SA also engaged its own independent consulting engineer and specialist drainage plumber to collect and verify further evidence," Mr. Russell said. "There are serious lessons to be learned here by all parties that jointly undertake a complex construction project such as this. "Extensive consultation and a clear understanding of the partners' respective duties and responsibilities on safety is a must. "What began as an oversight on the suitability of the foundations for the new tanks by all parties, ended with the most catastrophic of outcomes. "As these companies have found out, safety cannot be delegated away or treated as an optional extra, because the consequences can be tragic, disastrous and costly."

For answers and advice on workplace health and safety and the relevant laws, call SafeWork SA's telephone Help Centre on 1 300 365 255. To report serious accidents or incidents, in the workplace call 1 800 777 209 For further information contact Peter Adams, Chief Media Adviser, SafeWork SA Ph: (08) 8204 9430 or 0434 603 861 Page 2 of 2


Builders and Winery fined over Wirra Wirra collapse

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