Company fined $380,000 after Mt Waverley pit collapse

A structural engineering firm which drew up the plans for excavation works at a Mt Waverley construction site has been convicted and fined $380,000 after the pit collapsed, leaving homes teetering on the edge of a 10 metre drop.


Aldo DiTonto, the engineer and sole director of the firm, was also convicted and fined $100,000.

Mr DiTonto and AM Design & Construction Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to one charge each of breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act by failing to ensure people other than their employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from their conduct.

The Melbourne County Court heard that in February 2015, AM Design completed structural drawings for a mixed commercial and residential development in Highbury Road. The drawings included details for the excavation and construction of a basement.

Sometime during the night of 13-14 July 2015, approximately four days after the excavation work was completed, part of the excavation collapsed and residents of a townhouse bordering the site were evacuated.

A further, much larger, collapse occurred the following night and police advised residents of a second townhouse to evacuate.

The court was told AM Design’s structural drawings failed to include an appropriate site retention system which left people in or near the excavation pit at risk of serious injury or death.

A building company, an engineering company which certified the structural drawings, and their sole directors, are also facing charges over the collapse and will be standing trial next year.

WorkSafe Acting Executive Director Health and Safety, Paul Fowler, said workers and the public had a right to expect that those responsible for designing excavation works adequately addressed the risk of collapse.

“Bulk excavations are occurring more regularly across the State as underground parking becomes more common in housing, residential and commercial projects. If they are designed or carried out incorrectly the results can be catastrophic” Mr Fowler said.

“In this case, the failure of AM Design and Mr DiTonto to include appropriate engineering control measures in their plans led to a worksite that was inherently unsafe.

“It is just so fortunate that there were no workers on site at the time of the collapse and that the homes that were evacuated did not fall into the pit.”

Those responsible for planning and carrying out bulk excavations should consider:

  • the installation of bored piers around the perimeters of the excavation before excavation commences;
  • the installation of rock anchors; and
  • the progressive installation of sprayed concrete infill panels until the required depth of excavation is reached.

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