By Bob Benkesser
Joe McDermott and Gerry Bradley sat down to have a break at smoko and were crushed to death by unsecured concrete panels falling from a truck.
No exclusion zone was in place and all the panels were unsecured on the trailer while a panel was being lifted. It should never have happened and as the cases against those involved have played out, there are some pretty obvious questions.
Why on earth was Jaxon not charged? And how did the Site Manager not get charged?
It was up to them to manage the contractors on site. Jaxon’s Site Manager knew that there was no exclusion zone in place. They knew that other panels were not secured. And yet they allowed workers to sit within the danger zone. In fact they openly accepted this as common practice on this site, during this high risk activity.
This is the inevitable result of ‘self-regulation’. Construction companies are handed the responsibility to police themselves. So they can simply chose to not comply with minimum standards without any consequence.
They put enormous pressure on workers to do as they are told or risk losing your job. It’s all too common in the construction industry, and it is all for greed.
If even the most basic minimum standards had been enforced by Jaxon, Gerry Bradley and Joe McDermott would still be alive today. It’s that simple.
The rules really are broken. Jaxon and their Site Manager are responsible and should have been charged and sent to jail. Only if Managers and CEOs are looking down the barrel at jail time for not providing a safe work environment, that’s when they’ll start to think twice before cutting corners or ignoring safety procedures altogether.
No body in their right mind believes companies will spend money on safety unless they are forced to. We need good safety legislation supported by meaningful fines, industrial manslaughter laws, and a proactive, independent, properly resourced regulator.
Gerry Bradley and Joe McDermott deserved better. They deserve to be alive and they deserve to get to go home safe to their families. But they never will. Ever. So why should those responsible simply get to go home to their own families.
CFMEU will continue to push for industrial manslaughter laws to ensure safety is at the forefront of every decision made on site and not treated as an afterthought or just one more cost of doing business.
Kill a worker, go to jail.
Bob Benkesser is the Chief Safety Officer at CFMEU Construction and General Western Australia.