The West Gate Bridge collapse: lessons for workplace safety
On 15th October 1970 in Melbourne, Australia, a span of the West Gate Bridge fell during construction, killing 35 employees. The final Royal Commission into the Failure of the West Gate Bridge report into the causes of the collapse cited a number of problems with the construction process, including poor engineering practices, design flaws, fragmented managerial oversight and, more controversially, extensive union-led industrial action.
Outside the engineering discipline, however, the West Gate Bridge collapse has been little studied, leaving unanswered important questions about the Report’s conclusions and organisational pressures that contributed in the disaster. Using Quinlan’s (2014) ‘ten pathways’ analysis, this presentation critically examines the contributory factors that led to the West Gate Bridge disaster, calling into question the conservative and inadequate nature of the Royal Commission findings.
The results of our research will have resonance for those involved in contemporary construction projects, particularly when there is organisational fragmentation and lack of worker voice on site.