Work safety chief lashes site manager
CFMEU Secretary Dean Hall (right) stands at the Aurora apartments this morning as workers are ordered off the site, so a safety inspection can take place. Photo: Colleen Petch
The ACT's Work Safety Commissioner has lashed out at the manager of a Kingston Foreshore building site over its response to a workplace accident on Thursday.
Mark McCabe has accused Project Co-ordination, which manages the Aurora Apartments site where an apprentice suffered an electric shock, of dismissing the injury as an incident that could not have been prevented.
But the company said that a safety audit after the site was shut down by the construction workers' union on Friday had not found any breaches.
Norman MacLachlan, ACT construction manager for Project Coordination (black shirt) stands with his workers from the Aurora apartments this morning. Photo: Colleen Petch
WorkSafe ACT has slapped one prohibition notice on the project, forbidding any further work on the airconditioning system on which the fourth-year apprentice was working on at the time of the accident, until its investigation has been completed. Mr McCabe said further action could be taken and ''early investigations imply that this was an avoidable accident, very much so''.
The commissioner laid into Project Co-ordination's managing director, Paul Murphy, for comments he made on Friday about the incident being ''isolated'' and that any issues on the site would be ''non-life-threatening''. Mr Murphy also said, ''I could walk around every site in Canberra and find an issue.''
''The response sort of suggests that accidents will happen and there's not much we can do about it,'' Mr McCabe said. ''That's an issue that came up in the Getting Them Home Safely report [on construction site safety].
CFMEU negotiators arriving at the site. Photo: Hamish Boland-Rudder
''It's very disappointing to see a principal of a major construction company voicing such a view.
''The young woman who received the shock is probably lucky that she didn't get a far worse outcome.
''What I would prefer to hear from employers is that they are doing everything they reasonably can to prevent those situations from happening.''
Kingston foreshore. Photo: Hamish Boland-Rudder
Project Co-ordination issued a statement on Friday afternoon saying a safety audit conducted by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, project managers and workers found no safety breaches ''that would prevent work on site''.
''Project Co-ordination takes its responsibilities for safety on worksites very seriously,'' the statement said.
Workers were called off the site on Friday morning after a brief meeting between union representatives and construction managers in response to the incident in which the apprentice electrician was shocked while working on a cable she believed was not live.
CFMEU branch secretary Dean Hall said the site should have been shut down on Thursday and a full safety audit conducted immediately after the incident.
He said the union had confirmed the woman who suffered the shock was a fourth-year electrical apprentice who was working alone, with no supervision. ''That is concerning on a number of levels,'' Mr Hall said.
''This is a serious incident. We hope the young lady is recovering but they [the construction company] are very lucky they didn't have a fatality.
''The safety audit is two things - it's about making sure the site's safe, but also sending a message to everyone that this is a very serious issue and we don't just turn up the next day and it's business as usual.''
Mr Hall said the audit had been completed by about lunchtime, but many workers did not return to the site. He said although the union saw ''real issues'' with the management of the site, it was ''happy with the co-operation that came from Project Co-ordination''.
Mr Murphy said on Friday that there was always pressure on contractors, but that shouldn't affect good safety practice.
''There's pressure on every project,'' '' Mr Murphy said. ''[But] there's no way we want to compromise our safety. Every accident that occurs … knocks me around. I just don't like it.''