The Guardian 16 February, 2005

Employers push to wind back safety

A Sydney building worker was decapitated in the same week as company directors called on the Howard government to water down safety laws. Brendan Brown was killed instantly, and three others seriously injured, after prefabricated flooring collapsed on the Baseline Constructions site in the Sydney suburb of Rhodes.

Building workers were using a crane to place the flooring when the accident occurred at the site where 300 residential units are being built.

Glen Inmer, 38, was taken to hospital with broken ribs, a broken leg and suspected head injuries after rescue crews freed him from beneath one of the concrete panels.

Daniel Reeves, 28, and Shane Banks, 31, also received treatment for injuries.

Brendan Brown, 43, leaves behind a wife and children.

"The CFMEU and WorkCover will be conducting a thorough investigation of this tragic death and will be looking to identify and rectify the cause to prevent it reoccurring", said Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's (CFMEU) Construction Division Safety Officer, Dick Whitehead, who pointed out it was the fifth building site accident in NSW since Christmas.

"I'm calling on the Federal Government to spend more time with OH&S, and instead of winding the national occupational health and safety outfit back, to increase its staff."

The Australian Institute of Company Directors has called for occupational health and safety laws to be included in the Howard government's plans to create a single national industrial relations system. It is clear, however, that the Federal government's enthusiasm for a single national system is due to its determination to erode workers' conditions and rights, including the right to organise for a safe work environment.

Media reports indicate that the employers' push is driven by fears that proposed industrial manslaughter legislation will be too onerous on directors and executives.

"The community understands that if you kill someone while driving negligently you will face a jail term", CFMEU NSW Secretary Andrew Ferguson. "Why should negligent employers who kill be any different?"

Meanwhile the widow of a construction worker electrocuted at Westfield Shopping Centre at Tuggerah last year is determined that no other family should go through a similar trauma.

Andreia Viegas will be visiting construction sites this year talking to workers about the importance of safety as part of the CFMEU's continuing safety campaign.

Glen Viegas died on October 24 last year after he cut through a live electric cable.

Back to index page