10:23 am, Sunday 29 June, 2008
Source: Courier Mail
Construction worker Chris Gear spoke about his fears of working at a high-rise site in the months before he and a workmate fell 26 floors to their deaths at the Gold Coast last weekend.
Close friend and fellow worker Aaron Ahipene said he and Mr Gear had talked about possible safety problems at the Meriton Pegasus site at Broadbeach, where Mr Gear, 36, and Steve Sayer, 52, died.
Mr Gear and Mr Sayer worked for a formwork company, Pryme, which was sub-contracting its services to Meriton.
Department of Workplace Health and Safety investigators have yet to complete their inquiries into last Saturday’s tragedy.
Workers and union officials have told The Sunday Mail they believe early investigations focused on whether counterweights on the top of the building became unsecured and failed to hold steel cables attached to the swinging stage, or “cradle”, on which the men who died were working.
Mr Ahipene said he and Mr Gear had discussed their fears for the past six months.
“We talked about the fact that there shouldn’t be anyone working up there (on top of the building) at all,” he said, referring to other sub-contractors, not the company for which the dead men worked.
Â There was speculation on the site last week that other workers on the roof may have mistakenly dislodged the counterweights.
Union official Michael Ravbar said Workplace Health and Safety officers, after inspecting the Broadbeach site following the deaths, had issued three probation notices, four improvement notices and written up “three foolscap pages” of alleged breaches.
Mr Ravbar, state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said the union would meet workers on Tuesday and hold talks with Meriton officials later in the week.
Meriton yesterday defended its safety record, and said breaches found by government inspectors were minor.
“I understand there are some minor issues. I dare say if Workplace Health and Safety go through any site there will be minor issues,” said Meriton general manager Peter Spira.
Those breaches were not related to the major investigation of the swinging stage, Mr Spira said.
“We pride ourselves on our workplace safety. Clearly something went wrong. We want to find out what went wrong.”
Mr Spira said the swinging stage had been used without problem in the building of the apartment tower.
The two sub-contractors had been completing concrete patchwork on the outside of the building as part of regular finishing touches, he said.
“The structure is well and truly finished. That’s why it is so perplexing. It’s a standard procedure (using a swinging stage) we’ve used on so many buildings in Australia.”
Industrial Relations Minister John Mickel said Workplace Health and Safety officers would conduct blitzes on Gold Coast construction sites and would show zero tolerance if they identified safety risks.
CFMEU officials will also conduct spot checks, and have warned they will order members to walk off the job if any safety concerns are identified.
Mr Mickel said that in a comprehensive investigation of the Broadbeach incident, “two investigators are working full-time on the investigation, statements have been taken, documentation has been collected”.
OHS News Tip: Scaffolding Work Method Statement
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