Scaffolding collapse could have killed dozens, court hears (The Age)

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       Mex Cooper : 
March 16, 2012

A massive scaffolding collapse on a busy Melbourne shopping strip could have claimed the lives of dozens of people, a court has heard.

Melbourne scaffold failure

The multi-level scaffolding came crashing down on Commercial Road, near Grattan Street, in Prahran on February 23, 2009, injuring three construction workers, one seriously, and just missing passers-by.

Dramatic footage captured by a security camera reveals how close a bus, two cyclists and a pedestrian came to being caught up in the collapse.

The accident, that happened during the construction of boutique art hotel The Cullen, damaged parked cars, tore down power lines and closed the busy road.

Asia Pacific Building Corporation, the hotel's developer and the company in charge of managing the site, today pleaded guilty in Melbourne Magistrates Court to two charges relating to workplace safety breaches.

WorkSafe Victoria prosecutor Ruth Shann said the accident had the potential to cause dozens of deaths and it was lucky that most of the site's workers were on a break when the scaffolding caved about 10am.

"If it weren't for smoko there would have been a lot of workers back on that structure," she said.

Three bricklayers working at the time of the accident were taken to hospital, the most seriously injured suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung, a fractured shoulder blade, broken neck bones and chipped bones near his spine after falling debris caused him to fall through a window opening and on to a concrete floor.

Another of the injured workers, who had to have plastic surgery on his finger, managed to ride the scaffolding to the ground as it crumpled.

The court heard the collapse had been caused by an overloading of bricks on scaffold bays and alterations made to the scaffold structure's original design.

Ms Shann said SMS Scaffolding, that was employed by Asia Pacific to construct the scaffolding, had reduced the width of some platforms from five to three boards and made changes that meant it no longer complied with Australian standards.

Scaffolding bays were found loaded with brick stacks weighing up to three times the safe limit.

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