Gentle reminder for rookies as Assembly leak exposes a few problems
CFMEU secretary Dean Hall talks to a worker about unsafe building practices at the ACT Legislative Assembly on Monday. Photo: Colleen Petch
Spying the very first construction site in view as he departed the Legislative Assembly news conference into workplace safety on Monday, the blood rapidly drained from ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe's face.
A small group of young builders were diligently fixing a leaking terrace roof over the Assembly chamber itself - just metres from where the government was handing down a damning inquiry into the parlous state of safety culture in the territory.
And as McCabe surveyed the scene he saw plenty was amiss.
Dean Hall was just behind, and the CFMEU ACT secretary's reconnaissance of the site confirmed several issues - a power cable connected to the main electricity supply was draped along the floor and also wedged through a metal door. It connected power to the angle grinder that a young bloke was using to dry-cut tiles. He wasn't wearing a face mask as dust billowed out in front of him.
Those are four things wrong that could lead to eye or lung damage, or death through electrocution.
With the media milling around the ACT's major construction safety players, and Workplace Safety Minister Simon Corbell looking on, Hall and McCabe conferred before Hall ducked his head out the door and spoke to the worker.
''Mate, can I have a word? Where's your protection from the dust? What's this cord doing here? Did you realise we've just had a press conference on the safety inquiry going on in here?'' he asked.
The young bloke looked embarrassed and said he didn't realise he had done the wrong thing. Hall suggested now might be a good time for a lunch break.
Muffled laughter followed the exchange but it could not have been more illustrative. Canberrans are not strong on safety culture. Not strong at all, and the statistics, led by four deaths in a year, are brutal.
The report makes 28 solid recommendations towards turning this around and Corbell adopted seven of them immediately.
''Getting Home Safely'' makes sobering reading. And it should be read by everyone from the highest-paid developer to the lowest-paid labourer working in this city.
Meanwhile, McCabe will be relishing the commitment to bolster his WorkSafe inspector team in the next budget - not least because lax safety standards at the ACT Assembly have just added to his workload, and an inspector was dispatched to the site once the camera crews had gone.