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Grocon faces huge fine

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A leading construction firm and a small sign company are facing $9 million in fines after being criminally charged over the deaths of three people who were crushed under a collapsed wall in Melbourne.

Bridget Jones, 18, her brother Alexander, 19, and French researcher Dr Marie-Faith Fiawoo, 33, died as they walked passed the wall, in March 2013.

The 15 meter-long section of brick wall, with a wooden advertising board dynabolted to its facade, collapsed onto Swanston Street in Carlton, adjacent to the Melbourne CBD, amid 100km/h winds in March last year crashing the three people.

Construction giant Grocon now faces five charges, which were filed by WorkSafe in Melbourne Magistrates Court late on Monday.

Two charges were filed against Aussie Signs, subcontractor hired to erect the hoarding to the front of the wall.

The charges concern breaches of Victoria’s health and safety laws and each charge carries a maximum fine of $1.3 million.

WorkSafe alleges the companies failed to protect the lives of those who died by not eliminating or reducing the risk to life and safety of anyone within the vicinity of the wall and hoarding.

The charges also allege the companies did not obtain a permit for the hoarding or get an engineer to inspect the wall before or after it was erected.

Grocon boss Daniel Grollo says the company will wait until it receives details of the allegations before responding properly.

“We acknowledge the action taken by WorkSafe given the tragic consequences of last year’s wall collapse and the broad obligations that apply under the Victorian Occupational Health & Safety Act,” Mr Grollo said in a statement.

“We don’t yet know the specific detail of what is being alleged against Grocon or the Melbourne signage company responsible for erecting the advertising sign on the wall, so we need to await further details and legal analysis before we can properly respond.”

Mr Grollo says Grocon’s priority remains to assist authorities as they examine what contributed to the wall collapse and identify what needs to be done to ensure it never happens again.

—with AAP