30 November 2017

More safety inspectors to board light rail project after recent breaches

| Ian Bushnell
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One of the Spanish light rail vehicles to be used on Stage 1 of the Canberra light rail network. Photo: Supplied.

More safety inspectors are to be deployed to the light rail project by the end of the year after a series of recent breaches and as construction ramps up.

Contractors were hit with $14,000 in fines and Prohibition and Improvement Notices for several breaches, including a fire incident.

WorkSafe ACT said three Prohibition Notices and one Improvement Notice were slapped on a subcontractor and the principal contractor involved on the project, and related to the storage and treatment of flammable materials on the site as well a small fire.

WorkSafe ACT said fuel vapours had ignited as a generator was filled with petrol close to where grinding of a metal track weld was occurring, resulting in a small fire which was quickly extinguished. There were no injuries to workers.

Notices were issued for the welding areas and firefighting equipment due to poor operational and site set-up issues, with flammable substances stored inappropriately near the welding areas.

Two of the Prohibition Notices have since been lifted after changes were made to the workplace.

Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones said WorkSafe ACT would increase its oversight of the light rail project with three additional inspectors joining the project later this year.

“This is a project which is not only of great prominence but also complexity and safety must remain the overarching consideration of workers and project officers working on this project,” he said.

“As we head into the busy end of year period my message to workers on this site, and others across the city, is not to rush to complete deadlines at the expense of safety.

“As the activity on the light rail site increases in intensity and complexity into the New Year, WorkSafe ACT will be increasing its focus on the light rail site to ensure all works are being undertaken safely.”

The Opposition seized on the safety incidents to question the Government’s Memorandum of Understanding with UnionsACT, the purpose of which was purportedly to improve safety.

Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Andrew Wall said the incidents showed that giving unions the power of veto on Government procurement projects did not result in improved safety, but only in taxpayers paying over the odds on major government construction projects.

“The majority of contractors involved on the light rail project are out of town operators who have entered into EBA’s with unions. It has been demonstrated through the Productivity Commission that union involvement in large government construction projects can result in taxpayers paying as much as 30 percent more for projects,” he said.

He said the only authority on workplace safety should be the Work Safety Commissioner and his office.

Do you think safety is being compromised on the light rail project? Is the MoU with Unions ACT costing taxpayers? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

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