Fines for Wirra Wirra winery tank collapse

A&G Engineering, A&G Engineering (SA) and RG & RT Trott have been fined a total of $355,000 over the collapse of massive fermentation tanks at the Wirra Wirra winery in March 2008.

The companies had pleaded guilty to breaching sections of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 relating to the design, construction and erection of the tanks, and failing to ensure the safety of employees.

SafeWork SA prosecuted after its investigation of the catastrophic collapse of 15 fermentation tanks at the Wirra Wirra winery, which happened in just 10 to 20 seconds due to a domino effect.

A&G Engineering designed and manufactured the six new 30-kilolitre tanks, which were erected on site by local subsidiary, A&G Engineering (SA), on behalf of the client, RG & RT Trott, which operated the Wirra Wirra winery at McLaren Vale.

While the collapse put seven people at risk, Greg Lane, a 19 year old cellar hand, sustained serious injuries including a torn aorta, broken ribs, a punctured lung, fractured vertebrae and shoulder blade.

The three companies, according to SafeWork SA, had not given consideration on whether the foundation slab was able to support the new structure, or the footings requirements of the new tanks. Unsuitable methods were used to anchor the structure.

The companies had also failed to obtain any professional engineering advice, use a licensed building works supervisor for the installation or provide load calculations and footing requirements.

According to SafeWork SA’s submission, the slab was subjected to forces more than five times greater than what it was designed to withstand.

The court found the companies had built a structure without sufficient regard to the most basic and obvious issue of its safety. It imposed convictions and fined A&G Engineering $135,000 after a 10% discount and A&G Engineering (SA) $108,000 after a 10% discount.

RG & RT Trott was convicted and fined $112,000 after a 20% discount for its guilty plea, contrition, cooperation and remedial action.