The death of a construction worker when he was struck by a fallen crane in Belconnen on Thursday night has renewed calls for worksites to have proper safety procedures in place.
The 62-year-old Sydney man died after a mobile crane rolled over while moving a large generator at a low height at the University of Canberra public hospital worksite.
A group of workers were within metres of the incident and tried to render first aid on the man, CFMEU boss Dean Hall said.
“During that process it’s gone catastrophically wrong, [the crane] rolled on its side, and as a result, the boom … which was lifting the generator has struck, fatally injuring the construction worker,” he said.
Mr Hall said the workers who were on site were “extremely shaken” and had been offered counselling.
ACT Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones said the crane had only arrived on site that day and that he believed no stabilisers were used as it was mobile at the time, though this is yet to be confirmed.
He said he was concerned that a number of accidents or near-miss accidents involving cranes had occurred on ACT construction sites recently, and WorkSafe recently commenced an audit of all of the ACT worksites using cranes to ensure crane installations were “safe and appropriate”.
“We have also come across examples where there are minor defects on cranes and they could be improved to improve safety,” he said.
Thursday’s fatality is the first worksite death in the ACT since 2012.
WorkSafe said workplace injuries in the ACT construction industry had decreased 53 per cent between 2009-10 and March this year.
The government body was concerned about communication issues at worksites caused by workers not following safety procedures.
Following the death at the University of Canberra site, WorkSafe will investigate whether Brookfield Multiplex, the company the man was employed by, had safety protocols that covered that type of activity, whether workers were briefed on these and whether they were being followed at the time.
“A key part of our investigation is determining why the crane rolled over,” he said.
“As well as safety procedures, we will look at the mechanic sufficiency of the crane itself, the ground that the load was being carried across including the angle it was on and whether there were obstacles.”
Thursday’s fatality came only days after it was confirmed that a large crane at the site, not the one involved in the incident, was recently temporarily shut down due to safety concerns.
But despite the tragedy and the string of other recent incidents, Mr Jones believed regulation around workplace safety was adequate in the ACT.
“If all necessary guidelines are followed I think there is sufficient laws and guidelines in that area,” he said.
“I think WorkSafe is doing as much as we can by issuing safety alerts and conducting an audit to check on [worksite] operations.”
But more could be done, according to Mr Hall.
“The union believes that there have been improvements in workplace safety in the ACT but they have been slow,” he said.
He was also concerned about a number of recent near-miss accidents involving cranes and hoped WorkSafe’s audit would improve worksite conditions.
Thursday’s death comes months after Unions ACT called for more resourcing for WorkSafe ACT because it was struggling with complex investigations into serious accidents or fatalities despite funding boosts since 2012.
The call was sparked by the failed prosecution over the death of a 21-year-old Belconnen Concrete employee, Ben Catanzariti, who was killed when a faulty concrete pump boom collapsed on him at a construction site on the Kingston Foreshore.
His 2012 death was the last fatality on an ACT worksite prior to this week.
The last death before that was two weeks before Christmas in 2011, when 45-year-old Wayne Vickery was fatally struck by a heavy grader while working on a Macgregor building site. The death described as “shocking” but easily preventable during a sentencing hearing in the ACT Supreme Court.
David Ghannoum, regional managing Director for Brookfield Multiplex said his company was working with authorities, unions and WorkSafe ACT in the investigation of Thursday’s incident, which was expected to take a number of days.
“We have been in contact with the family and offer our full support for anything they need during this time,” Mr Ghannoum said.
The Aikman Drive work site will be closed for the weekend and possibly longer, depending on the investigation.
Construction on Canberra’s newest public hospital only began in February. The $139 million development is expected to be finished in 2018.
WorkSafe began a “trial mobilisation” of work health and safety inspectors in October which led to a 284 per cent increase in inspectors, a 51 per cent decrease in workplace injuries and 33 per cent increase in safety compliance in the construction industry.
It also found that 96 per cent of 2726 workplaces that were inspected where compliant with work health and safety and dangerous substances laws.
With Natasha Boddy