|Issue No 83||09 February 2001|
M5 Project- Worker Pays the Price
Story and photo by HT Lee
Crane driver Pat Portlock's crushed right leg had to be amputated after being trapped in his tipped over mobile crane for 10 hours at the M5 East Baulderstone project on Friday 12 January.
Pat, a crane driver for over 30 years is a popular bloke and 'will do anything to help his fellow workers,' his workmates said.
At a stopwork meeting the following day the workers were angry and vocal.
'This shouldn't have happened to Pat,' they said, 'the whole safety issue needs looking into.'
The workers did not want their names mentioned: 'People are too scared to say anything because they might be out of a job.'
CFMEU Safety Coordinator Brian Miller was at the accident scene and straight away noticed several safety breaches.
Under the M5 East 'Project Consent Award 1999' agreed between Baulderstone and the NSW Labour Council safety was one of the main agreement--Clause 26 stated:
'No employees will be required to work in or on an unsafe area or process of the Project...'
'All we are asking is for the company to abide with the agreement and stick to the OHS Act,' Miller said.
However, the unions have some concerns about a series of allegations raised by the workers which included:
· workers being told to work in unsafe situations
· crane drivers been asked to drive their crane in unsafe situations
· crane drivers been asked to work in the rain and in one instance during a lighting storm
· crane drivers been told to drive over electrical cables in water in the tunnel
· extensive usage of 'logbook' (unqualified) dogmen and on several occasions logbook crane drivers had also been used
When raw sewerage was found the following Monday leaking all over the ground beneath the toilet and the amenities area and into the Cooks River, the workers had to be sent home for the day until the area had been cleaned up. The response of Baulderstone was to accuse the unions of raising 'vexatious' safety concerns.
This is in circumstances when WorkCover has issued three prohibition notices and eleven improvement notices. The improvement notices included:
· abiding to the Excavation Code of Conduct
· putting in place a proper traffic management plan for the entire site
· putting in place proper access for workers
· making sure all plant and machinery comply with the manufacturers specifications
The safety committee which included representatives from management in its safety inspections of the site had also issued over 300 'BTG rectification notices.' The RTA is now carrying out a full audit of the entire 14km site.
On the same day Pat was trapped in his crane, a worker in a crane related accident was killed in South Australia--he was only 28 years old.
The accident at the M5 project is not the first one involving a mobile crane. Fifteen months earlier another mobile crane tipped over into the Cooks River but thankfully no one was hurt.
One would have thought employers would have learned from that accident and had put into place safety measures involving mobile cranes.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005