Electrical Contracting, Service Industry and Equipment Technicians

A worker aged in his 30’s was tragically killed yesterday while working on the construction of the Barangaroo ferry hub. It has been reported that a steel beam fell and crushed the worker at around 4.30pm on the afternoon of Wednesday 1 March.

NSW Police and Safework NSW are investigating but ETU organiser Stewart Edward said that yesterday’s tragic accident was the latest in a long list of OHS problems that have plagued the site ever since construction started.

“My thoughts and the thoughts of all ETU members go out to this workers family.” said Stewart.

“Every single worker deserves to go home safe at night to his or her family and sadly yesterday’s incident is the latest in a long list of OHS problems that have occurred on this site over a period of years.

“I can only hope that this is the last accident and fatality to occur on this site but based on past safety performance I am not confident that it will be.” Stewart said.

“The reintroduction of the ABCC and the building code, which are designed to limit the ability of unions to access sites and represent members, will only make matters worse in the future, but right now we need all members to look out for each other and to identify potential safety breaches before an accident can occur.”

“The best chance workers have at maintaining high safety standards is to join their union and notify us when there is a problem.” finished Stewart.

Work is about to commence on the casino project within the precinct which is expected to provide a further three to four years work of construction work. The ETU has concerns around the level of Labour Hire being used in all trades across the site and the union will be making this a focus well into the future.

The North West Rapid Transit (NRT) consortium, made up of Hong Kong’s MRT Corporation, John Holland, CPB Contractors and UGL Rail, were unable to produce a heat policy on-site at Schofields yesterday as the temperature climbed above 37*C.

ETU official Tony Stegic attended the site to meet with ETU members and upon leaving found the temperature rising above 37*C. Tony re-entered the site using his OHS access permit and asked NRT for their working in heat policy which the principle contractor was unable to produce.

After dicking around and trying to pass the buck the builder admitted that they did not have a working in heat policy and went on to say “what difference does it make if its 37 or 47…”.

Tony Stegic said that it is this kind of attitude from builders that leads to serious injury and workers being exposed to situations that are unsafe.

“I couldn’t believe what this builder was saying when the temperature was climbing and workers were exposed to a potentially dangerous work environment that could quickly develop into an emergency if a worker suffers heat stroke or other heat related illnesses.” said Tony.

“I immediately contacted SafeWork NSW who said that they would “triage” the job and send an inspector if the agency deemed the situation to be dangerous.”

“It’s disturbing that there are builders out there that do not have a policy in place to deal with severe heat given we are coming into the middle of summer where this kind of occurrence is only going to increase.

“My message to ETU members is keep an eye on the mercury, watch the temperature and if it’s getting too hot or you can see your workmates struggling take the necessary action to make the situation safe including taking a break, conduct a hazard assessment and even stop work all together.” Tony said.

After the recent revelations concering Lend Lease at Barangaroo, the approcah of major builders are taking towards safety is unacceptable.

The ETU will be out on job sites making sure members are protected from severe heat over the summer months – if you know of a dodgy builder that is not abiding by the rules when it comes to working in heat contact the union and we will provide advice and visit the site if necessary.

ETU Organisers attended a Richard Crookes construction site in Leichhardt first thing this morning after being alerted on the weekend that two workers suffered electric shock.

After attending the site, the ETU has learned that the incident occurred on Saturday when an excavation team attempted to move a temporary switchboard which was damaged in the process leading to one of the three phases pulling away from the links with the board and frame becoming live.

ETU Organiser Fred Barbin said qualified electrical workers should first isolate any temporary board before moving and that the incident could have easily resulted in a fatality.

“What we have discovered is that the excavation contractor attempted to move the board when it fell over and became live.” said Fred.

“After the board has fallen one of the workers tried to pick it up not knowing that the frame around the temp was live which has resulted in electric shock.

"A second worker was shocked when he attempted to free the first worker from the temporary power supply, it was not until a third worker using a non-conductor freed both workers by knocking them free.” Fred said.

“These two workers are very lucky to be alive, the outcome from this incident could have been much worse.” said Fred.

Builder Richard Crookes notified SafeWork NSW as soon as the incident occurred and SafeWork NSW attended the site on Saturday but as usual did not take any action. Electrical Contractor G-Force was called in to rectify the situation and make the site safe.

This is a classic example of what will happen if employer associations are successful in their push to water down electrical licensing and trade qualifications. The ETU is fighting for members to ensure our trade and license are of the highest possible standard to ensure other workers and the public remain safe from the dangers of electricity.

Bizarrely, the Fair Work Building Commission (FWBC) is now playing an astonishing role on construction sites in NSW. The ETU has been made aware from concerned parents regarding apprentices who have been targeted by the FWBC.

Following a number of visits by ETU organisers, apprentices have chosen to join the ETU. These apprentices have raised a number of concerns including:

  1. Intimidation and bullying by employers
  2. Lack (sometimes none) of supervision
  3. Underpayment of wages
  4. Forced to work in unsafe areas
  5. Apprentices being employed by companies but not registered as apprentices
  6. Apprentices being summarily dismissed by employers
  7. Apprentices not being paid to attend TAFE
  8. Apprentices receiving electric shocks while working LIVE!
  9. Failure to notify Safework of serious and dangerous incidents (electric shocks)

In fact, the list goes on. The recent campaign by the ETU has found significant failings in NSW in regards to employer’s attitude and treatment of apprentice electricians. Unbelievably, the FWBC is not interested in pursuing any agenda to protect apprentice electricians. It would also appear that the National Electrical Contractors (NECA) who represent many of the dodgy bosses has called the FWBC to pursue ETU officials while ignoring the actions of their members who are engaged in illegal activity and putting young apprentices lives at risk.

The ETU has learned over the last few weeks that the FWBC has decided to visit sites where ETU construction officials have attended. The FWBC inspectors have then accessed the personal information of these apprentices (and other Electricians) without their knowledge or consent and using their phone numbers contacted them. Apprentices and their parents have informed the ETU that apprentices have been interrogated over the phone and in some cases approached on site.

The FWBC hasn't asked any questions about the wellbeing of the apprentices or advised of their rights to join the ETU. Unsurprisingly the FWBC has set out on a fishing expedition, accessing personal phone numbers to see if they have been forced to join the ETU. The fact is electrical apprentices have rushed to join the ETU to raise concerns, and find out about their rights.

Remarkably, the FWBC inspectors have also sought to encourage workers and apprentices to leave site (while they are still working) to meet in cafes, to have a "friendly chat".

"This is an outrageous abuse of power from the Fair Work Building Commission.” Said ETU organiser Stewart Edward.

“How can it be that, if union officials were to behave in this way that both the worker and the official would be found guilty of taking illegal industrial action and fined for such action." Stewart said.

Many Australians are still unaware of who the FWBC are, and alarmingly, have no idea that the last federal election was actually called by the Turnbull Government to give the FWBC even more power.

"The new powers, if passed by the Senate, will mean the Fair Work Building Commission will be replaced by the discredited Australian Building Construction Commission and all workers in construction including, electricians and apprentices, will not have any right to silence, and in fact, if they refuse to appear before the Australian Building Construction Commission they can be sent to jail for 6 months" Stewart Edward said.

Stewart's advice to electrical apprentices is join the ETU, find out your rights, get organised and remember, you do not have to speak to the Fair Work Building Commission. If you are contacted in any way seek advice from your Union, the ETU, prior to responding to the FWBC.

The FWBC should stop harassing apprentices and focus on the dodgy bosses and NECA who would have more credibility if they stopped defending the outreagous behaviour of their members.

 

The Electrical Trades Union was notified by a member of the public that a tower crane working on a Sydney construction site belonging to builder Brookfield Multiplex came into contact with 415v powerlines last Saturday.

The member of the public also notified SafeWork NSW of the incident which occurred at the Saint Patricks Green aged care construction site located on Chapel Street, Kogarah however SafeWork NSW failed to attend the site.

The eye witness told ETU Organiser Stewart Edward that the crane’s chains came into contact with the power lines which resulted in an explosion including arcing and a loud bang. Workers on the form deck were seen to jump and move away from the area when the incident occurred at approximately 8.15am.

Upon attending the site the ETU found that the powerlines in question did not have the necessary “tiger tail” insulation which would have made seeing the wires near impossible.

ETU Organiser Stewart Edward contacted Brookfield Multiplex management to raise concerns over notification of SafeWork NSW, danger of the powerlines and ongoing work at the site. It was the ETU’s view that work should cease until an inspector from SafeWork NSW attended the site. The ETU reached agreement with Brookfield Multiplex management to report back to workers about the incident on Monday morning.

ETU Organisers Fred Barbin and Anthony Stegic attended the site on Monday morning, spoke with workers and inspected paperwork relating to the breach but to their astonishment SafeWork NSW still had not attended the site.

Under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011 notifiable incidents must be properly investigated by SafeWork as the states safety regulator. This is yet another example where the regulator has chosen not to attend and investigate a serious safety breach that could have resulted in injury or death to workers or a member of the public.

“It is totally unacceptable for SafeWork NSW to allow a builder to investigate their own serious incidents or dangerous incidents without the attendance and involvement of SafeWork NSW safety inspector.” Said the ETU’s Stewart Edward.

“WHS Laws allow for action to be taken in situations like this but SafeWork NSW continue to allow the industry to effectively self-regulate which in my view will someday result in a tragic outcome.

“To add further insult Safe Work NSW have reverted to sending out a pro-forma email indicating that they have received notification of a possible safety breach, that they will not be attending the site and that the builder can proceed to “disturb the scene”.” said Stewart.

“Serious questions need to be asked following this latest incident including details of the development application, safe work procedures around powerlines in close proximity to construction sites and why these high voltage powerlines were not insulated at the very least.” Stewart said.

Last night a construction worker was killed in a catastrophic incident on a Canberra building site. First and foremost, the ETU wishes to extend its deep and sincere condolences to the family and friends of the worker who lost his life last night. Our thoughts go out the workers on the site that lost a friend and comrade in such catastrophic circumstances.

From what we know of the incident so far, a crane driver from Sydney was killed when he was struck by the boom of a crane that rolled over during an on-site operation that went horribly wrong. The crane driver was assisting in the operation at the time and was not operating the crane that rolled over.

Electrical workers from Heyday 5 in Canberra were working in conjunction with the site crane crew to relocated a large generator from one area of the site to another. A worker was killed when he was struck by the boom of the non-slewing mobile crane (franna) after it rolled over during the placement of the load. Whilst the electrical workers were not injured as a result of the incident they have undoubtedly witnessed a horrific and catastrophic event that will adversely impact on them psychologically as the initial  shock of the incident wears off. The ETU has made offers of support to the workers and to the company involved.

This incident serves as a stark reminder of how dangerous our industry can be and highlights the importance of being ever vigilant when it comes to workplace safety.

If you need assistance or you wish to talk to your ETU organiser please contact the ETU office on 02 9267 4844 and one of our memberhip services officers assist you.

ETU Cracks Down on Site Safety

Posted on 01-8-2016

As part of the ETU’s construction and contracting campaign the union has started to crack down on worksite safety.

As part of this hardline approach ETU Organisers Mick Hopper and Antony Stegic attended a Lend Lease site at Macarthur Square last week where multiple safety breaches were identified. Builder Lend Lease agreed that the identified breaches needed to be rectified and proceeded to shut down a majority of the job until electrical contractor’s Neilson and All Tech fixed the problems.

Even more disturbing was the fact that All Tech had no licensed electricians onsite despite unlicensed overseas labour hire workers continuing to perform work.

On another site at Sutherland Hospital, builder Richard Crookes was forced to halt work after the ETU identified electrical safety breaches. This time the electrical contractor was Grid Electrical who were forces to rectify issues immediately after being instructed to do so by the builder.

On both sites the union raised concerns over amenities as there was not enough room for all workers to use them. After raising concerns both sites have improved amenities by bringing in additional sheds – a win that will benefit all workers on these sites.

If you have any safety concerns or need assistance on-site please contact your site delegate or ETU Organiser.

Launch of the Macquarie University Workers Compensation Research

Just a reminder that the Macquarie University research into workers compensation will be released at Parliament House this Thursday at 1.15pm in the Jubilee Room.
 
Unions NSW will also be launching their return to work inquiry.
 
All are invited and a light lunch is provided so please contact Rose Docwra via email to rdocwra@unionsnsw.org.au
 
If union members have had a difficulty with returning to work and would like to talk about their experience please contact me on 98815908.

A first-year electrical apprentice has been rushed to Royal North Shore Hospital following a fall of approximately five metres at the Barangaroo construction site in Darling Harbour.

The incident occurred shortly after 8am today when the apprentice fell through a temporary floor cover over one of the service risers.

The apprentice, employed by the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) Group Training company and working for Stowe Australia, was being supervised by another apprentice at the time of the fall. This second apprentice raised the alarm.

Officials from the Electrical Trades Union attended the site immediately following the incident and have already identified a number of other safety breaches, including workers being exposed to live electrical cables.

The builder, Lend Lease, has moved to stop all riser work in tower three until a review of the electrical contractor Stowe Australia has been undertaken.

ETU organiser Stewart Edward said that the apprentice suffered leg and back injuries.

“From what we know so far, the apprentice appears to have suffered leg and back injuries after calling approximately five metres,” Mr Edward said.

“He was treated on the scene by ambulance paramedics and has been transported to Royal North Shore Hospital.

“Thankfully, his injuries do not appear to be critical.

“Today’s incident is the latest in a string of safety breaches on the Barangaroo site, including some that have resulted in workers losing their lives.

“Both Stowe Australia and NECA Group Training have a legal responsibility to provide a safe work environment.

“If it is found that they have breached their responsibilities it could lead to prosecution of both organisations, which is something we will be looking at very closely.”

The union informed SafeWork NSW, with inspectors attending the scene to carry out their own investigation.

“This incident could easily have ended with a tragic outcome,” Mr Edward said.

“The ETU will be pursuing this matter to ensure that this kind of incident does not occur again.”

 

In the past two weeks, in separate incidents, two workers have come in to contact with energised circuits as Lend Lease Building rush to commission Tower 3 at Barangaroo South for clients. Contractor Stowe Australia, are responsible for the commissioning and it appears that both dangerous incidents occurred after cable ends were left bare as testing was being carried out.

The ETU found out Thursday that the first of the two incidents resulted in Safework visiting the site after being notified. It is understood that NO improvement notice or prohibition notice was issued by Safework inspectors.

Stowe Australia has already been involved in several dangerous incidents at the Barangaroo South site. It is believed the second incident in as many weeks again involved Stowe Australia in a similar incident involving exposure to energised circuits. On the second incident Safework did not attend the site nor did they intend going to the site to investigate the dangerous incident. 

ETU Organiser Stewart Edward said Stowe Australia and SafeWork NSW needs to lift their game.
“It is totally unacceptable that Safework NSW could be so lenient when it comes to workers having electric shocks on the largest site in Australia.” Stewart said.

"Is it going to take the death or serious injury of a worker for Safework NSW to enforce the law on this site and across NSW?”

Safework NSW eventually responded by sending inspectors to the site but only after repeated call from the ETU. It is believed that again no improvement notices were issued by the inspectors. 

Lend Lease building has suspended all productive work involving Stowe Australia at Barangaroo South until an investigation has been completed by Safework NSW.   Stewart Edward has called on senior officers from Safework NSW to meet the ETU and other unions as a matter of urgency as the most recent incidents are not the first involving electric shocks at Barangaroo.