31 October 2012. Canberra Times photo by Rohan Thomson. Workers at the Sorell Apartments construction site in Lyons. 


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Workers at the Sorell Apartments construction site in Lyons late last month. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The workplace watchdog has intervened to stop a concrete pour on a large Canberra building site, just a week after it warned that the industry was flouting safety laws.

WorkSafe ACT prevented the pour at the Sorell Apartments project in Lyons on Thursday morning after workers complained they were put in danger.

If construction companies are willing to play Russian roulette with the health and safety of their workers, we are not. 

It is understood a contractor said a deck for the pour was ready, but several tradesmen were still working on it while the pour was being prepared.

7 April 2011 - Pic Elesa Lee - The Chronicle - Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe discusses the importance of businesses having workers compensation insurance SPECIAL 1

Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe. Photo: Elesa Lee

Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said his inspectors stopped the pour after discovering several problems, the most serious being that work was signed off as completed when it was unfinished.

Three concrete trucks were turned away.

The incident follows a meeting between WorkSafe ACT and concrete companies last week, in which the companies expressed concerns that some building firms were pressuring them go ahead with pours in unsafe circumstances.

Mr McCabe said on Thursday: ‘‘If construction companies are willing to play Russian roulette with the health and safety of their workers, we are not. If necessary, we will turn the concrete trucks away.’’

He said pours were too dangerous to skimp on safety.

"There have been a number of significant incidents in the ACT recently that have involved dangerous concrete pours. This kind of risk taking is just unacceptable."

Ben Catanzariti was killed during a pouring accident in July this year at a Kingston Foreshore site, which also injured two other workers.

Mr McCabe described concrete pours last week as one of the construction industry's most dangerous activities.

He said he was concerned that developers were forcing workers to ignore safety precautions so as to lower costs.

Comment has been sought from Hindmarsh Property, which is the developer of the Sorell Apartments project.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's ACT secretary, Dean Hall, said workers on the site called the union on Thursday morning because they feared for their safety.

"They were concerned that they were under pressure to work in an exclusion zone, and they could see the concrete trucks rolling up and getting set up to pour. That should never have happened."

He said the union was firmly behind WorkSafe ACT's crackdown on the industry.

"The only way we're going to get meaningful change in the ACT is for the people in charge of sites to take seriously their responsibility to send their workers home safely.

"We have to hit them with penalties to get them to take notice. They need to learn that it's better to spend the time and effort on safety, because they'll lose money if they don't."