Lend Lease still ignores safety issues after UTS accident, say unions

Crane collapse in Sydney.

In a spectacular workplace accident at a University of Technology Sydney (UTS) construction site on November 27, an intense fire broke out in the cabin of a crane before the arm collapsed onto scaffolding below. No one was injured, but hundreds of people were evacuated from nearby office buildings.

The incident took place next to Broadway, one of Sydney’s busiest roads. The November 28 Sydney Morning Herald reported that the crane’s driver swung the arm away from the street before escaping from the fire.

It is believed the fire was started from leaking diesel fuel.

The SMH said on November 27 that “union officials did a full inspection of the site about two weeks ago and closed it down for four days”. Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) state secretary Brian Parker told the paper: “We brought up issues about leaking diesel on the crane ...

"We said to them that a maintenance regime has to take place immediately on the crane.

“That’s obvious to us that it’s failed to be done and we’ve had a situation where it’s put hundreds of lives at risk.”

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has called for a public inquiry into the incident.

Simon Wade, president of the UTS NTEU branch, said: “The fire and subsequent collapse of the crane endangered the lives of many building workers, firefighters, university staff and students, and the general public. This is a major incident and it requires a full open public inquiry to identify the cause of the incident and prevent it from ever happening again.

“Our union, like others, has been concerned to learn that Lend Lease, which is responsible for the construction site, may have failed to prioritise safety.”

The CFMEU has raised concerns that Lend Lease is putting workers' lives at risk on other sites. The union says the company is “refusing to hold meaningful safety talks with the construction union over emergency evacuation plans following a near catastrophic accident last week”.

CFMEU NSW president Rita Mallia said: “Does Lend Lease need a worker or member of the public to be killed before it will start to take safety seriously?

“The CFMEU has simply asked Lend Lease to sit down and implement some safety measures for the workers over summer and it has turned its back on them. Workers are angry and believe the company is treating them with contempt.”

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