$230K fine for structural engineer over roof collapse

$230K fine for structural engineer over roof collapse

A Sydney engineering company director has faced court over an unverified and high-risk demolition job at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, which almost killed two workers.

The company, Grasso Consulting Engineers (GCS) was found to be responsible for the incident, despite several other companies being involved.

Lendlease won a principal contract tender in 2014 for the redevelopment of the site at Haymarket. They engaged H Hassarati & Co, a licensed demolition contractor to undertake a portion of the work, who in turn subcontracted Rosenlund, who were tasked with demolishing the premises’ roof.

The incident that brought GCS before court occurred on March 19, 2016, when a Rosenlund employee was operating a large excavator to continue demolition of the roof and a fellow worker acted as a spotter. Part of the roof collapsed onto the excavator, trapping the worker, who had to kick his way out through a window. Both workers were uninjured.

The court was told of extensive discussions between Hassarati and Lendlease as to the best course of action for the demolition, but GCE only attended a single meeting throughout the process.

As a structural engineer, the director of GCS had adequate experience and training that could have prevented an unplanned structural collapse. GCS did not provide computer modelling of the demolition to determine risk factors nor a sequence to follow once the work began. It fell to the Rosenlund workers to decide on the sequence themselves.

As this process continued, the structure that remained was found to be at an “unacceptable risk of collapse,” indicating that GCE had failed in their health and safety duties.

The Justice said that “the offences involved ‘significant object gravity,’ the risk of an unplanned structural collapse was known to both offenders and they were each aware of the content of the DW Code and AS 2061.”

The Justice explained that “the degree of harm that might eventuate was serious and it included a risk of death to the Rosenlund workers.”

GCS and its director were found guilty of breaching section 19(2) duty of the WHS Act, having failed to provide adequate structural engineering advice on such a complex job.

GCE was convicted and fined $200,000 as well as the GCE director who was fined $30,000 as per section 122(2) Fines Act 1996 as well as ordered to pay 70% of the prosecutors’ costs.

GCS have since overhauled their demolition safety practices, but the director is still unable to obtain professional indemnity insurance.

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