Steven Wyatt was a husband, a father, a brother, and a friend. Just 15 months prior to his death, in late 2014, another worker, Jorge Castillo-Riffo was also killed on that site in similar circumstances. Both tragedies involved a fatal crush injury when the men were in the scissor lift.
Both accidents were utterly preventable.
Castillo-Riffo’s widow, Pam Gurner-Hall has spent the last 14 months calling for a coroner’s inquest into his death so that – in her words – ‘this could be prevented.’ In this, she has been joined by the CFMEU, and South Australian Secretary Aaron Cartledge has once again called for an inquest into this latest tragedy.
At the time of Castillo-Riffo’s death, SafeWork South Australia laid charges against the contractors who were building the Royal Adelaide Hospital for failing to comply with health and safety regulations to provide a safe working environment.
It’s interesting to note, then, that this site which has been plagued by safety has been one of intense scrutiny by the Fair Work Building Commission (FWBC). In fact, taxpayers might be interested to know that an estimated $750,000 has been expended by the FWBC persecuting and prosecuting workers on the health precinct site in Adelaide.
In 2014, 23 workers were charged with fines of over $10,000 each for walking off the job over safety 12 months before. At the time, the water supply had been turned off, the toilets weren’t working, there was no drinking water and the emergency showers weren’t functioning for several hours. The workers faced a choice: either take action and get the problem resolved or put their health at risk. They took the former route and were punished for doing so.
This year alone, there have been eight fatalities and while eight families are mourning the passing of a loved one, the Liberal Government has been threatening the country with a double dissolution election if the Senate does not pass the ABCC bill.
The government has been running the line for some time that the ABCC is needed to be a tough cop on the beat to address crime and corruption in the industry, but the truth is that the ABCC is only an industrial regulator. It won’t and can’t look at criminal matters, but what it can and most certainly will do is curb the rights of workers and make it even harder for them to stand up for their health and safety.
If anyone is in doubt about this, they simply need to recall the ABCC’s prosecution of rigger Ark Tribe. In 2008, Tribe was facing six months jail for failing to front an ABCC interrogation where he would have been required to report on who had spoken up at a site meeting about a safety matter….