Warrnambool council faces a maximum penalty of almost $1.5 million after being charged by WorkSafe over a concrete walkway collapse at the city's saleyards in October, 2020.
It is understood WorkSafe warned the council in 2015-16 about structures at the South West Victoria Livestock Exchange, including the concrete public walkways and the agents' catwalks.
About 20 people were on the public walkway when it collapsed during a sale on October 22, 2020.
The collapse was described as "like an earthquake" by witnesses, although fortunately no one was injured.
WorkSafe started an investigation in December 2020, which was completed earlier this month and has led to a charge by the Victorian Workcover Authority being listed in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court for a mention on December 5.
WorkSafe confirmed it had charged Warrnambool City Council following a comprehensive investigation into the collapse of a buyer's platform at the SWVLX in October 2020.
The council has been charged with a single breach of section 23(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to ensure, as far as was reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
The maximum penalty for the offence is 9000 penalty units. At the time of the collapse a penalty unit was $165.22 which makes the maximum penalty $1,486,980.
WorkSafe will allege the council failed to ensure the buyer's platform was safe despite knowing that other load bearing structures at the facility had corroded.
A Warrnambool City Council spokesman said: "While this legal matter is under way council will not be commenting".
Next Monday night the council will vote on the future of the saleyards with proposed future spends of up to $5.66 million on capital works and just over $4 million in ongoing maintenance.
Those $5.66 million works only include upgrades to roofing, but not other structures.
The concrete public walkways were almost immediately closed after the collapse and have since been replaced.
In November 2020 WorkSafe ordered a review of the saleyards complex which opened at the current site in 1970.
A CSE Group consulting engineer report found almost all platforms on the site were subject to degradation and "could collapse at any moment".
"The roof structures over the platforms are also subject to possible failure," it said.
The review found the whole yards were dilapidated with auctioneer catwalks, roofing, loading ramps, rails and fittings in urgent need of replacement.
Hundreds of pages of documents released by the council in August this year said "council faces imminent legal risks if it chooses not to invest in the facility and to keep operating".
In 2014, former councillor Mike Neoh warned in The Standard that "if the council fails to act we may find ourselves with a saleyards entering perhaps a terminal decline".
Cr Ben Blain, who is on the council's saleyards advisory group, previously said that since the major town hall meeting in 2010 there hadn't been any substantial investment.
"If there had been investment, the argument would have been totally different right now," he said.
"Now we've hit this crunch point where it needs significant capital investment."