The Guardian 23 November, 2005

Fall was no bulls#@*

A 58-year-old building worker is recovering from a fall at a Sydney construction site a week after a foreman scrawled "bullshit" over safety warnings. Armando Quezada, a steel fixer from Fairfield, was taken to Mona Vale Hospital after falling more than three metres onto concrete at a St Hilliers site in Mona Vale.

The incident came a week after Construction Division CFMEU officials warned management of a number of fall risks, including a lack of handrails, during an audit with the site’s safety committee.

The CFMEU obtained minutes from the employer-union inspection, written by the site foreman, which had the word "bullshit" written next to issues raised.

"We expect these inspections to be carried out with a degree of integrity, and the last thing we need is to see notes with bullshit, bullshit, bullshit (written on them)", CFMEU North Shore organiser, Tom Mitchell said.

Mr Mitchell said 130 workers walked off the job for a day and a half after the accident, as there were many parts of the job that were not up to scratch on fall prevention.

CFMEU safety officer Dick Whitehead said St Hilliers sat on its hands on the issues raised.

"We’ve got an increasing amount of employers paying scant regard to safety issues being raised by unions", he said. "I’ve been on the phone all morning arguing about safety with a number of employers."

Mr Whitehead said it seemed employers were feeling emboldened by recent anti-union construction industry laws.

"This is only going to lead to more accidents — and tragically more deaths", he warned. He said St Hilliers was notorious for taking complaints to the union-busting Building Industry Taskforce.

The taskforce has since been beefed up as the Australian Building and Construction Industry Commission, with sweeping powers to interrogate building workers and impose thousands of dollars in fines for industrial action.

Back to index page