It can been revealed for the first time that a bolt no longer than five centimetres long was a factor in the most expensive construction accident in Canberra's history. Thousands of the poor quality bolts were used in the construction of a hangar that collapsed at RAAF Fairbairn in 2003. They later failed when tested to Australian standards.
These bolts were one of the major causes of the hangar's collapse which seriously injured 12 workers and prompted a record $126,000 fine. ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said it was a warning to the construction industry.
"We've been out to a site recently and we had issues with some of the bolts they were using and to being secured properly, and I got the distinct impression they thought we were nitpicking but when you think about an incident like this, the consequences were huge," Mr McCabe said. "We often get push back from the industry for what they perceive as little issues that we are perusing but sometimes they have big consequences."
When the roof of the nearly completed RAAF hanger at Fairbairn collapsed in May 2003, a dozen workers were seriously injured.
"It was largely contributed to the faulty bolts that were not standard manufacture – that's a bit of a travesty. The bolts were not accordance with Australian standards. We got them tested for structural strength and some failed."
Bolts recovered from the hanger show dozens of the five centimetre long metal bolts split clean in two while others bent and cracked under pressure.
"They were very lucky lives weren't lost. I've seen photos of cars crushed under the structure. And I would hate for history to repeat itself."