Trench collapse prompts $480,000 enforceable undertakings

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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 following an incident in which a trench collapse left a worker with serious injuries.

Following a SafeWork SA investigation, the regulator has accepted an enforceable undertaking by Acciona Infrastructure Projects Australia and civil engineering subcontractor SGP CIVIL.

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) 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 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.

The spend includes the company sponsoring training in trenching awareness provided by the Civil Contractors Federation (CCF). The training will be made available to the industry in South Australia for two years and be accessible through the CCF website and newsletter.

SGP Civil will implement 11 work practice rectifications to deliver benefits to workers and three activities to benefit the civil construction industry, with an increased minimum total spend estimated at $174,145.

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, according to SafeWork SA executive director, Glenn Farrell.

“The implementation of monitored and targeted health and safety improvements that will also deliver benefits to workers, industry and the community, that may not have been achieved by prosecution,” he said.