Out of site: worker who raised safety issues loses his job
Construction worker Dean Mileham is speaks about the safety issue at the Nishi apartments site in Acton. Photo: Colleen Petch
Construction companies talk about safety but few take kindly to workers who raise safety concerns on the job, Sydney sprinkler-pipe-fitter and plumber Dean Mileham says.
Mr Mileham has just spent six weeks in the ACT working on the Nishi construction, where he alleges he drew management's attention to several safety issues but was let go last week with 48 hours' notice because they thought he was a troublemaker.
''From day one I was concerned about walkway access on the site with trucks going across the pathways and scissor-lifts moving stuff above,'' Mr Mileham said.
He complained that ladders were not appropriately sized for the jobs and that workers were forced to share ladders and other equipment.
He also drew attention to piles of tiles left on the floor, missing floor tiles, screws coming up through the floor and other tripping and falling hazards, as well as basic hygiene issues on site, such as soap not being provided in the washrooms and rats around the lunch rooms.
Mr Mileham was dismissed last week from the job with 48 hours' notice and said he felt victimised because he had spoken out about safety. He has returned to Sydney.
David Murphy, the chief executive of Nishi's construction company Ply, said he did not wish to comment on a disgruntled worker's specific allegations except to say there was ''a consultation process and clear avenues for Dean to have been raising any safety concerns he may have had''.
He said his dismissal was also an issue between him and his employer, specifically, the fire sub-contractor installing the sprinkler system.
Mr Mileham said he had been devastated when the ambulance arrived on site following Jayson Bush's fall last month.
''I've been a pipe fitter since the age of 16 and I describe myself as having old-fashioned safety principles.
''When I did my apprenticeship in the UK, I was never allowed to work alone, the culture was very different then. I think there is too much pressure on these young kids to get the work done and I think we need to pull it back and get it respectful.''
A colleague and fellow sprinkler-fitter on the Nishi site, Scott Rimbault, said Mr Mileham had been a good worker, but there was a culture of fear of speaking out against safety, and Mr Mileham had been brave in taking a stand.
Mr Rimbault sustained a back injury at Nishi several weeks ago, lifting tiles under which he was laying pipes, and resigned last week.
''The problem is the younger fellows see the older fellows too scared to speak up over safety and nothing gets said,'' he said.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union ACT secretary Dean Hall said Mr Mileham's safety concerns had been brought to the union's notice by other workers, and the union had raised these with management.
Mr Rimbault said he had seen some steps taken in recent weeks to address some of these concerns, particularly regarding the provision of clear walkways for workers.
Mr Hall said the threat to work security if a worker spoke out on safety was a characteristic of the industry across the country.
''The reality is, if you open your mouth on a commercial construction site, you are labelled by your bosses as a troublemaker.''