Worker was trapped by seven-tonne staircase at Marist College Bendigo building site, court hears

Works are continuing on Marist College in Maiden Gully, which was opened in 2015.
Works are continuing on Marist College in Maiden Gully, which was opened in 2015.

A WORKER became trapped between a seven-tonne concrete staircase and a rock wall while completing construction work on Marist College Bendigo, a court has heard.

The company responsible for accepting the material pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates' Court on Monday to one charge from WorkCover Victoria.

The Strathfieldsaye-based building company avoided conviction for the breach and was fined $18,000 plus $3430 in court costs.

The worker was hospitalised overnight following the incident.

The court was told that the seven-tonne outdoor staircase was delivered to the Marist College building site in Maiden Gully on March 24 last year.

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The staircase became “snagged” on a bar while being lowered using equipment and was no longer parallel with the ground.

The owner of the building company, who was at the scene, directed workers to stabilise the object with their hands.

The man who delivered the object, who was not an employee of the company or qualified to assist in the unloading, was asked to help by standing at the end of the staircase. He became positioned between the staircase and a rock wall.

The staircase started to rotate anti-clockwise and the man and another worker became trapped against the wall.

The second worker had his arms stuck behind his body and against the other worker, who was almost crushed, the court was told. He screamed out in pain and was rescued.

He was taken to hospital and discharged the following day.

The court heard it was the first time the company had faced criminal charges.

Defence counsel Justin Hannebery said the company had a “good corporate character”.

“This is not an indication of systemic difficulties in work practice. It was a flaw that existed on this day in the course of this one particular task,” he said.

“The size and awkward shape meant placing it in position was more difficult than anticipated.”

Magistrate Bruce Cottrill said it should have been obvious that the situation had become unsafe for workers.

“It was obvious to yourself and any impartial observer that to place workers in a restricted area between the rock wall and a large piece of paneling – clearly a no-go zone – that workers should not have been in that area,” he said.

“It seems to me, having heard all material, there was a significant error of judgement.”

Mr Cottrill said the severity of the breach of workplace safety laws was not sufficient to warrant a conviction.