Charges against private building company Grocon that were to prove them responsible for three deaths at a Melbourne construction site accident in 2013 have been dropped on the result of a plea bargain.
The Victorian WorkCover Authority were responsible for the inquest into the accident which saw a wall and timber hoarding collapse and kill Bridget Jones, her brother Alexander, and French national Dr Marie-Faith Fiawoo at the Grocon construction site in Melbourne last year.
The Authority initially announced it would be pursuing charges on eight counts which could have seen the developer charged with the deaths of the three aforementioned persons.
However, the watchdog have since announced they have reached a plea bargain with Grocon which will see five charges dropped in exchange for one guilty plea which will be based on their failure to inquire about the safety of the timber hoarding that collapsed during high winds.
The guilty plea may cost Grocon a maximum fine of $305,350 and the hearing for that plea will occur in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria on 20 November 2014.
Grocon have accepted they did fail to make adequate inquiries into the safety of the sign:
“Grocon (Victoria Street) Pty Ltd, the developer of the former CUB site, today advised it would plead guilty in relation to a single charge that will remain under section 26 of the OH&S Act,” they said in a media release.
“We have done so on the basis that, whilst WorkSafe has made clear that Grocon’s conduct did not cause the wall to collapse, we accept that we could have made further enquiries to ensure that the subcontractor responsible for installing advertising signage on the wall, Aussie Signs Pty Ltd, had conducted an adequate risk assessment prior to installation.”
Grocon Executive Chairman Daniel Grollo said the incident highlighted an area where the industry as a whole can improve on:
“This process has identified areas in which we, and the industry as a whole, can improve our procedures to ensure the safety of the public, and our employees, is further protected, including on vacant sites,” he said.
The main Construction Forestry Mining and Engineering Union (CFMEU) weren’t as pleased as Grocon with the verdict:
“Grocon has admitted it is guilty of a crime in court today,” CFMEU secretary Dave Noonan said.
“But they negotiated a deal to avoid a trial, and will walk away with a small fine that amounts to a slap on the wrist.”
The trial is not over however and the sub-contractor partly responsible for erecting the timber hoarding that collapsed, Aussie Signs are still awaiting trial.