MUA denied entry to inspect Barangaroo work death

Unions are campaigning to stop deaths on workplaces but are denied entry to investigate when one happens as it did tragically on March 1 when Tim Macpherson was crushed.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said it was prevented from conducting a safety inspection at a construction site at the giant Barangaroo project at Darling Harbour, where a 32-year-old worker was killed on March 1. Tim Macpherson, father of a young family, was crushed to death when a large metal beam fell on top of him at the Barangaroo Ferry Hub worksite.

MUA Sydney deputy secretary Paul Keating said he attempted to inspect the site when his union was notified in November about concerns that the barge used at the site did not comply with maritime standards.

“At the time I came down with another official to have a look at the barge to assess if it was up to maritime standard and to make sure that the operation was safe,” he said.

“I was met with opposition from the contractor, McConnell Dowell, in accessing the site, after which I contacted Roads and Maritime Services to find out whether the vessel was up to standard. These companies refuse our right of entry even when we raise these issues of safety with them.

“This was a needless thing that could have been prevented,” Keating said. “We were stopped from speaking to the workers and inspecting the barge, and that raised the red flags for us straight away.”

This is the second workplace death at Barangaroo, after a worker fell 30 metres to his death in January 2014. That was followed the same year by an underground fire that threatened to topple a 50-metre crane, and another crane accident last November.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) state secretary Brian Parker said there had been an unacceptable spike in deaths at building sites across Australia. “It's running at over one a week at this point in time,” he said.

Parker said the federal government’s construction watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), was making work sites more dangerous by preventing union organisers from entering them.

“We can make it safer by not having legislation like the ABCC that restricts union officials from entering the workplace. Where we have got good access to building sites, the statistics show there is a drop in the number of serious incidents and accidents, and also deaths, in the industry.”

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