The Swanston St. Wall Collapse that happened on March 28 2013 thereby killing three people may have been occasioned by freak winds. The collapse resulted in deaths of Marie Faiwoo, Alexander, and Bridget Jones. On the day that the brick wall collapsed, there were gusts of wind that were witnessed during the afternoon. The wind was moving at 102 km/h.
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The Fairfax Media indicated that the wind was travelling at 83km/hr some minutes to 3pm. Authorities also reported that such wind was capable of breaking tree branches and/or dislodging roofs from houses. It is also speculated that the wall would have collapsed due to negligence by the necessary authorities. The Swanston Square has been neglected for the last 30years.
This negligence could have resulted in its weakening and precariousness. The hoarding is highly attributed to the parachuting effect of the wind and hence the collapse of the wall and fatalities. The advertisement board was almost one metre taller. The brick wall was approximately 2.5 metres.
The board was therefore a huge protrusion on its face. When hoarding is done in a way that it becomes higher than the wall of attachment, it becomes hazardous, hence interfering with the safety of the wall. This claim is likely to be the reason behind the collapse of the Swanston St. Wall. The board could have played the role of a sail, hence making the strong wind collapse the wall.
The Swanston wall was made of bricks. It was located at Swanston Street in Melbourne, which was a site on which the building development was to happen. This wall was erected in the early 60s and that it was almost the only remaining wall of the time. The wall was also among the structures that had not been demolished to pave a way for new constructions on the site.
The site is owned by Grocon Pty Ltd. The Swanston wall was adjacent to a footpath along the Swanston Street. When the wall collapsed, it did so in a linear way. The wall was about ten linear metres. The collapse went across the path where pedestrians passed, hence causing fatal injuries. Three pedestrians died from debris injuries. Two casualties died at the scene.
Various bodies of investigation have since been involved in searching the truth on the Swanston St. Wall. Such bodies include the Coroner, WorkSafe, Victoria Police, and the Melbourne City council. The bodies are looking for facts about the collapse of the wall. Various sides of the story and speculations are being evaluated for facts.
The police officers had also requested that any individual that could have been present or near the scene during the collapse to come forward to assist them in the ongoing investigations. The investigations have also found that there were other casualties that could have been injured by the collapsing brick wall although they were immediately rushed for treatment before the police and other security officers arrived on the scene.
Such casualties may have the necessary information that the police and other investigative bodies have been looking for since the incidence happened. Any individual with footage or live recording of how the wall collapsed and/or how the initial response activities were carried out has also been requested to assist the investigation bodies.
The bodies that could have authorised the hoarding of the advertisement have also been questioned. Investigative bodies are looking for any leads on whether there was negligence on the side of the owner company or any other authorising body. The hoarding of the advertisement board that went almost a metre above the wall must have been authorised by a particular body.
Such information will lead to unearthing of the facts about the cause of any death. Speculations on the gust that was blowing across the town are also being investigated. Examinations have so far established that it was not very clear how the wind speed of 82 Km/h and 100Km/hr were related to the collapse of the wall since the tall buildings in the town affect the velocity of wind and eventually its measurement.
Investigators are also looking for information on whether the advertisement board acted as a sail leading to the collapse of the wall. In addition, investigators are also looking for information concerning the bodies that should take responsibility of the fatalities and injuries. Investigations on the relatives to the three people that died from injuries have been successful.
All the three bodies were handed over to the families for burial. Investigative bodies have also announced that people should report on any other structure that may be dangerous to human, animal, and property in their areas of operations. Authorities are therefore looking for other structures across the town that may pose a threat to human life.
Deeper analysis of this accident proves that the accident was foreseeable. It is also clear that someone ought to have taken a step to prevent the fatalities that were not called for. In terms of ethical and legal matters, there were some authorities or persons that ought to have taken charge before the collapse of the wall. To begin with, the Swanston St. Wall was located next to a path that many pedestrians used.
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The street was also next to an international school. It was therefore clear that there were bound to be fatalities if any accident happened along the street. A response mechanism ought to have been easy to access from this street. However, the security and rescue team arrived at the scene late. In fact, it did not even witness the initial stages of the collapse.
It is for this reason that the security and investigation bodies still call upon those who were injured and rushed to hospitals on their own to come forward and assist in investigations. The government ought to provide a rescue mechanism for citizens across the city. A quick response to the tragedy could have saved the life of any victim who died in the hospital later.
It is also the responsibility of the building and construction authorities to investigate and/or approve the building and erecting of various structures in the country. A wall such as this one that collapsed in a broad day light would have been averted. The authorities should have noted that the hoarding of the advertisement board was done wrongly and dangerously.
An advertisement board that was erected on the wall in 2011 is highly attributed to the collapse of the wall and death of the three innocent people. If the authorities in charge of construction in Melbourne were hawk eyed and played a close investigative role, they would have noted that the advertisement board was wrongly done.
The authorising body would have stopped the erection of the board on an already weak wall hence avert the fatalities. The building and construction authority in Australian should therefore take the legal and ethical responsibility. The body is mandated by law to protect the lives of its citizens and such negligence should be consequential.
According to ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ (April 12, 2013, p.11), some of the officers in the building and construction authority may have been consulted by the advertisers before they erected their advert. The regulating officers who gave a green light to the advertisers should also take the legal responsibility.
In such a case, due diligence should have demanded the officers to visit the site of the construction to evaluate and/or assess the wall for its ability to withstand the advert board. In the same way, the authorising officers would have visited the site of construction after the hoarding of the advert to assess its safety.
It is at this point that they would have noted that the advertisement board had protruded by one metre above the height of the wall, hence posing a threat. However, ‘The Age’ (March 29, 2013, p.1) observes that someone must have neglected his or her duties and assumed that all would be well through assumption.
The consequences of the assumption and negligence were death of three innocent pedestrians and injuries of many others. The municipal council of Melbourne should also take responsibility for the deaths. It is among the mandate of the municipal authorities to ensure safety of the people. The collapsed wall has been standing within their mandated areas for over 50 years.
This wall was also among the oldest constructions in the area. The authorities should have secured the wall, reinforced it, or even elected warning signs on it. However, there were no warnings or instructions. Therefore, people just walked alongside the 10-metre wall that later collapsed. ‘The Age’ (March 29, 2013, p.1) associates this event with the death of three people who were trapped in the debris without a warning.
The municipal authorities should also take moral and legal responsibilities. ‘The Age’ (March 30, 2013, p.5) asserts that Grocon Pty Ltd should also take responsibility for the three deaths together with the unknown number of injuries. The owner company must have had the necessary information about the wall. It is the company that holds the documents on how the wall was constructed, its durability, and lifespan.
Furthermore, the company knew about the strength of the structure even before allowing for the erection of the advertisement board on it. In fact, the Grocon Pty Ltd Company administrators ought to be arrested and prosecuted for murder through negligence and carelessness. Officers of the company would have advised that the wall be demolished if it did not have enough stability to withstand its weight.
In a similar way, officers and company construction engineers would have advised against the erection of the advertisement board on the already weak wall. This could have saved the innocent lives. The weather forecast body in Australia also has a responsibility since it is mandated with the task of researching, analysing, and predicting weather conditions for the safety of people.
The weather forecast department ought to have carried out its researches and analysis of weather to warn people of the impeding danger of the gust. According to ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ (March 29, 2013, p.2), the moment the department recorded the speed of the wind to be between 82Km/hr and 100km/hr, it should have sent alarm messages to citizens through the media and other communication avenues.
Considering the Victorian OHS Act of 2004, it is very possible that the ongoing investigations by WorkSafe Victoria will lead to prosecution of some individuals and some organisations. According to the Victorian OHS Act of 2004, Worksafe should always provide a clear advice and direction that can be accessed by all people.
WorkSafe should also ensure compliance with OHS Act and its regulations. The current investigations by Worksafe Victorian will be useful in investigating about the collapse of the Swanston St. Wall because the OHS Act of 2004 makes specific the way all duties that are imposed by certain regulations should be done.
This will assist WorkSafe implementation since the officers in charge of the investigations will have guidelines to follow in their pursuit of the Swanston St. Wall case. For example, they will follow the guidelines to evaluate who failed to play his or her rightful roles before the collapse of the wall.
‘The Age’ (May 1, 2013, p.2) reveals that it will therefore be possible for officers to pinpoint the actual points on which negligence happened with the procedural method of implementing and carrying out certain duties. For example, the hounding of the advertisement board on the wall was supposed to have followed a certain procedure before being cleared.
‘The Age’ (April 8, 2013, p.10) also sheds light that negligence would not have taken roots and that the wall would not have collapsed if the contractors who erected the board on the wall followed the due process. Consequently, no deaths would have been witnessed. A step-by-step evaluation of the process will indicate whether certain persons overstepped their mandate and/or whether others neglected the due process.
Adams (2004, p.376) asserts that the OHS Act of 2004 requires certain activities to be licensed. Such activities include construction of buildings, walls and other structures. The owner company-Pty Ltd will therefore be required to produce the necessary documentation for the erection of the wall.
‘The Age’ (April 8, 2013, p.10) confirms that companies will be required to produce the necessary documentation to show that the engineers who erected the wall were qualified and that they were licensed. Mylett and Stubbs (2006, p.7) assert that the OHS Act of 2004 also requires proper documentation to be done.
The proprietor of the wall will therefore be required by law to produce all the necessary documentation to show that the law, rules, and regulations were followed during the construction of the wall. ‘The Age’ (May 1, 2013, p.2) revealed how the Act requires the company to notify the necessary authorities on some of the occurrences.
For example, Pty Ltd should have reported that the wall had grown weary and weak due to its age. The company engineers should also have been suspicious of what would have happened in case of a gust. This would especially be circumvented to investigate whether the engineers authorised the hounding of the wall that had protruded above the wall height by almost a whole metre.
It is therefore possible that the OHS Act will enable the WorkSafe investigations to prosecute individuals and organisations for negligence of duties and responsibilities. According to ‘The Age’ (May 24, 2013, p.15), the organisation and the regulation authorities from various departments that should ensure safety of people are also likely to be prosecuted using such laws. This move is likely to bear fruits during the investigations.
Some of the lessons learned from this tragic accidents are that it is important to follow due diligence when dealing with any construction process. The tragedy also teaches people that it is also necessary for the state to always be equipped for disaster response.
According to ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ (March 29, 2013, p.2), if Victoria was well equipped to respond fast to the tragedy, she would have been able to save her life. However, in the tragedy, security officers and investigative bodies arrived at the scene long after the tragedy had happened. The tragedy also teaches people that it is important to take precaution.
‘The Age’ (May 11, 2013, p.4) reveals that Groco Pty Ltd should have taken precautions besides reporting about the disaster. The company should have erected warning signs so that pedestrians who walked just next to the wall would take precaution. This would have prevented the deaths of the three people.
The company should also have sought the company of a qualified engineer or contractor for the erection of the advertisement board. ‘The Age’ (March 30, 2013, p.5) confirms that there is evidence to show that the advertisement board was not done in accordance with rules and regulations.
There was negligence or ignorance on the side of the contractor or engineers who carried out the duties. Accidents like these are not very common in Australia. In fact, according to ‘The Age’ (May 24, 2013, p.15), the government has taken stern procedures to be followed when constructing walls, buildings and other structures to avoid such accidents.
However, it seems that there was clear negligence on the part of the owner and contractors. This negligence is what resulted in the rare deaths of people from collapsed walls or buildings. It is therefore important to reinforce the rules and Acts that govern the construction of structures. For example, the WorkSafe rules should be reinforced and implemented.
Mylett and Stubbs (2006, p.7) assert that every other contractor and proprietor should ensure that he or she abides by the Occupational Health and Safety Acts. This will ensure that any uncalled-for accidents are minimised.
In my opinion, I believe that the OHS regulations should not to be altered in a bid to ensure prevention of accidents that result from collapsed buildings and walls. Adams (2004, p.376) argues that the OHS Act of 2004 is clear, precise, and professional. If walls are well-implemented, there will be few or no accidents resulting from collapsed buildings and walls.
However, there is the need to alter the mode of reinforcing the rules and regulations that guide professional engineering practices and work practices. ‘The Age’ (May 11, 2013, p.4) has put it clear that it is on the implementation and reinforcement of the professional engineering procedures that negligence or corruption comes in.
Reinforcement of these procedures should be carried out to ensure that due diligence is followed whenever any construction work is carried out. ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ (March 30, 2013, p. 3) asserts that the regulating authorities should also be vigilant in ensuring that all the necessary inspection procedures are undertaken before licensing. This will prevent any unplanned accidents.
Adams, K 2004, ‘Not Quite a Brave New World: Victoria’s Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004’, Deakin Law Review, vol. 10 no. 2, pp.376-392.
Mylett, T & Stubbs, J 2006, ‘Awareness of OHS Rights and Responsibilities: An Evaluation of a Trade Union Training Campaign’, Employment Relations Record, vol. 6 no. 1, pp.1-21.
‘The Age’ 2013, Alarm bells sounded over rickety freeway noise walls, 11 May, p. 4.
‘The Age’ 2013, Freak winds may have led to fatal brick wall collapse, 23 May, p.3.
‘The Age’ 2013, Owners could be charged over wall fall as Grocon under fire, 30 March, p. 5.
‘The Age’ 2013, Service for wall victims, 14 May, p.10.
‘The Age’ 2013, The wall… and why it came down, 3 April, p.1.
‘The Age’ 2013, Two killed in city wall collapse, 29 March, p.1.
‘The Age’ 2013, Wall charges mooted, 14 May, p.15.
‘The Age’ 2013, Wall death grief counselling for students, 5 April, p. 6.
‘The Age’ 2013, Workers in safety rally at CUB wall site, 1 May, p. 2.
‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ 2013, Frantic fight to dig out victims of fatal wall collapse in Melbourne, 29 March, p.2.
‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ 2013, Hundreds farewell victims of tragic wall collapse, 12 April, p.11.
‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ 2013, Parents mourn ‘kind-hearted’ siblings killed in wall collapse, 1 April, p.6.
‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ 2013, Site under scrutiny as siblings hit by wall identified, 30 March, p. 3.