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Excavation Alert - Safety Reminder

Posted by Andy Perry on 5 February 2024

Two companies involved with the development of the Gawler Rail Electrification Project in Adelaide’s north have agreed to spend more than $480,000 on safety improvements after a trench collapse that left a worker with serious injuries.

The incident in July 2021 occurred at the Rumble Road site in Dry Creek during the Gawler Rail Electrification Project (GREP). Acciona was awarded the GREP contract in February 2018, with SGP having supervision at the Rumble Road site to excavate a trench to run conduit adjacent to the SA Power Networks Kilburn Distribution Substation and the rail corridor along Rumble Road.

On 6 July 2021, a worker employed by Patriot Environmental Management, which was contracted to conduct non-destructive digging works, was working at the Rumble Road site. Utilising a “Vac Truck” and equipment, the worker conducted non-destructive excavation around the service pipework and entered the trench when it subsided, catching him unaware.

Pinned up against an existing water pipe when the trench wall collapsed, the worker sustained multiple spinal and rib fractures, laceration to the liver and a fractured pelvis. While no prosecutions of the Work Health and Safety Act, 2012(SA) (the Act) have been brought, Acciona and SGP understand the characterisation of the allegations that could be made with respect to the incident and sought to enter into an Enforceable Undertaking.

Under the terms of the accepted Enforceable Undertaking, Acciona has agreed to make six work practice rectifications, and increase spending on safety with an estimated total minimum cost of $305,920. Some of the rectifications include:

  • The appointment of a full-time safety manager to redevelop their WHS management systems and review WHS inspections
  • Conducting detailed incident investigations
  • WHS training for senior management across the operations, project and site managers, engineers, supervisors and leading hands
  • Implementing a safety software system with online and mobile access modes
  • Creating regular safety reporting practice of WHS inspection regimes, including daily excavation and trench inspections
  • Training and qualification of project engineers, site engineers, site managers and supervisors in accredited course through an RTO provider

SafeWork SA Executive Director Glenn Farrell said the two Enforceable Undertakings would have a direct impact toward improving worker safety through targeted education to workers and the industry and would also deliver benefits to the community.

Prosecution is still an option in circumstances where a business does not fulfil the requirements of an EU.

This article is a timely reminder for employers and principals contractors to ensure safe systems of work have been established whilst working in or near excavations.

Additional information can be found: Trench collapse prompts $480K safety spend | SafeWork SA

Reference: SafeWork SA


Author:Andy Perry


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