White Card Update: Protecting the Public from Wall Collapses

An article on TheAge.com.au discussed the spate of near misses on Vic inner-city building sites which eventually led up to a serious wall collapse on Swanston Street. The incident was a fatal one and led to experts calling for new building regulations that protect the public better.

The article goes on to discuss a string of accidents where dangerous practices such as hoarding, signage, bricks, scaffolding, tiles and concrete had fallen onto footpaths and roads sometimes resulting in serious injury were being undertaken by construction workers.

One such incident involved the collapse of 20metre timber hoarding onto a footpath in Elgin Street, Carlton due to strong winds.

According to an expert, architect Peter Johns, there have been a number of similar collapses that often go unreported if no one is injured. Johns has called for reform of Victoria’s building codes and regulations which only emphasized safety of workers without considering the risks to the public.

Hoarding is a major source of collapses in Melbourne which according to Johns requires action, read what the post on TheAge.com.au went on to talk about:


‘Hoarding collapses are not uncommon in Melbourne, although they should be,” he said. ”It shouldn’t have to take a death … or two or three, to wake people up to dangerous sloppiness.”


Authorities in Montreal, Canada, introduced simplified building regulations that made the safety of passersby paramount after a toddler was killed by flying debris from a site in 2009.


Mr Johns said there also appeared to be a gap in current regulations for safety on stagnant sites where no construction or demolition was under way.


Civil engineer and former lord mayor Trevor Huggard also called for tougher rules for the management of bombsites such as the long-derelict CUB site.


”There ought to be a requirement for an annual inspection by a qualified building practitioner. A bombsite is 10 time more dangerous to the public than a finished building,” Mr Huggard said. ”But they [property owners] are not put under any pressure whatsoever to maintain, or look after, or make sure that their sites are safe.”


The Building Commission has written to Victoria’s 21,000 builders, demolishers, surveyors, inspectors, engineers and drafts people, as well as councils, to ask them to reassess their work sites to ensure they are safe.


The commission asked them, in particular, to ensure all buildings, including free-standing walls and fences, were appropriately braced, and that any potential risks were reported to the local municipal building surveyor.


Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/push-for-tougher-controls-to-protect-public-20130408-2hhdh.html#ixzz2PsvhZvlt

The post goes on to explain that WorkSafe has alerted managers that structures should be able to resist extreme weather including surface water or runoff and gale force winds. Structures need to have solid foundations and if the structure is unstable or suspected of being unstable, a suitable large exclusion zone should be established around it.

Those in charge of the site need to be aware that unstable structures are a problem not only for those involved with work on the construction but for innocent public and passers-by who may inadvertently by caught under the rubble of a structural collapse.