Australia’s largest private construction company, Grocon,
has publicly acknowledged it is facing a WorkSafe lead inquest into the deaths
of three people on their construction site in 2013.
Bridget Jones, her brother Alexander, and French national Dr
Marie-Faith Fiawoo were announced dead on 28 March 2013 after a 15m section of brick
wall and attached timber hoarding collapsed on them at a Grocon construction
site in Swanston Street, Melbourne.
WorkSafe has since filed criminal charges in the Melbourne
Magistrates Court against Grocon and Aussie Signs, a Sandringham-based firm
that was sub-contracted by Grocon to hang the advertising hoarding on the wall.
Grocon Pty Ltd. and Grocon Builders (Vic) Pty Ltd. face five
charges in total, including breaches of section 23 and 26 of the OHS Act 2004
for failing to protect the public and failing to provide a safe workplace.
Aussie Signs are also set to face two of their own charges
for breaches of the same kind. If convicted, fines of up to $9 million can be
expected by the firms.
In a media statement on the Grocon website, Executive Chairman
Daniel Grollo acknowledged that WorkSafe’s inquiry is in accordance to the
Victorian Occupational Health & Safety Act.
“We acknowledge the action taken by WorkSafe given the
tragic consequences of last year’s wall collapse and the broad obligations that
apply under the Victorian Occupational Health & Safety Act,” he said.
“We don’t yet know the specific detail of what is being
alleged against Grocon or the Melbourne signage company responsible for
erecting the advertising sign on the wall so we need to await further
information from WorkSafe before we can properly respond.”
According to Melbourne’s Herald
Sun, documents filed by WorkSafe inspector Brendan Johnson at the Melbourne
Magistrates court highlighted eight key failings by the Grocon company. These
1. Not producing a detailed design prior to installation of
the hoarding, which included how it was to be attached to the wall, and how the
wall and hoarding would be braced
2. Not getting a risk assessment about wind loading of the
wall with the hoarding attached prior to installation of the hoarding
3. Not getting an assessment by a structural engineer of the
wall’s capacity to safely bear the hoarding prior to installation of the
4. Not obtaining a building permit for the hoarding
5. Failing to require that the hoarding must not increase
any lateral wind loading on the wall because it extends above or beyond the
6. Failing to require that any increase in the later wind
loading on the wall be counteracted by engineer approved bracing
7. Failing to require a reduction in the wall so that a more
robust signage/wall with engineer approved bracing could be constructed
8. Not getting an assessment of the wall’s capacity to
safely bear the hoarding and making any modifications deemed necessary after
installation of the hoarding
Police investigators have also told the court they wish to
see an engineering survey from Grocon, which was previously refused by the
construction company on the basis that it was irrelevant.
However Victorian Coroner Judge Ian Gray has said whether it
was relevant or not, he wanted to see the engineering survey, and it should be
made available to the inquest.
Grocon has announced that they are assisting investigators in
“Grocon’s priority remains to assist investigating
authorities as they continue to closely examine all of the factors that
contributed to the wall collapse and identify what needs to be done to see it
never happens again,” said Grollo.
“Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families who so
tragically lost their loved ones.”
The inquest was scheduled for June 2014, but is now delayed
and has been given no fixed date.