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Watchdog, union worried about Nexus workers' safety

Concrete pump rollover on Second Range Crossing, Tuesday, August 15, 2017.
Concrete pump rollover on Second Range Crossing, Tuesday, August 15, 2017. Contributed

WORKPLACE Health and Safety Queensland said it is seriously concerned about the "high number" of dangerous incidents at Nexus' $1.6 billion Toowoomba Second Range Crossing project. 

To date, WHSQ said they were aware of 14 mobile plant rollovers at the site since construction began last year, and another three incidents where there was "uncontrolled movement of the plant without a rollover". 

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has blasted Nexus over the numerous on-site incidents, with assistant state secretary Andrew Sutherland saying the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, under Nexus' management, "remains the worst job currently running in the civil sector". 

"It's had the highest number of incidents, highest number of repetitive issues, highest number of safety issues, and highest number of call-outs for us to go to the job regarding complaints about health and safety," Mr Sutherland said. 

The various plant rollovers have involved a range of machines, from excavators to rollers, cranes, and even a concrete boom pump.

A Nexus spokesperson said the company had been "unhappy about the number of plant incidents". 

Works on the Second Range Crossing were briefly brought to a halt last month when a concrete pump rolled.

The Nexus spokesperson said: "We take safety very seriously and works were recently stopped on site to review safe work practices". 

"As a result we are implementing a number of changes. These changes include new hazard identification processes, expanding and restructuring onsite safety committees, increasing consultation with workers and implementing changes to our dedicated safety culture program," the spokesperson said. 

Since that site-wide work stoppage, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has issued another three statutory notices, bringing the total number of notices issued to Nexus or its subcontractors to 28. 

The CFMEU said it would be surprising to see statutory notifications in the double figures for any job over the life of a project.

"We're not even half way done they've had nearly 20 pieces of plant rollover and more improvement and prohibition notices than I can remember any job ever getting," Mr Sutherland said. 

"I would like to see the state government step in and hold them to account for the level of healthy and safety maintained on the job.

"If they can't maintain that level, then they need to be booted off the job."

A spokesperson for WHSQ said the department was "seriously concerned" about the high number of mobile plant rollovers at the site.

WHSQ issued a prohibition notice on August 17, ensuring no mobile plant can be used across the TSRC construction site without first confirming the ground is stable, the operator is competent and other risks have been managed.

To date, WHSQ has issued 11 Improvement Notices and one Prohibition Notice to Nexus. 

A further 13 Improvement Notices and three Prohibition Notices have been issued to sub-contractors of Nexus. 

WHSQ records state there was one dangerous incident recorded in 2016 and one hospitalisation recorded this year.

"WHSQ is concerned about what it sees as a high number of incidents at the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing project," a spokesperson said.

"As with all workplaces, WHSQ works to reduce incident numbers to as low as possible. 

"Any incident, especially one that causes injury, is unacceptable."

Nexus said it was committed to safety on the TSRC project. 

"To deliver Queensland's largest and most complex infrastructure project, we have rigorous safety processes in place that comply with the highest Australian and international standards," a spokesperson said. 

"We will also continue to work collaboratively with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. This includes regular site visits with local and major projects inspectors, reviews and audits of our safety systems, information sharing and voluntary reporting well above our legal requirement.

"Our safety culture is one of continuous improvement. We are always striving for excellence and we will continue to work with our staff, subcontractors and relevant authorities to achieve high safety standards across all activities carried out along the 41km alignment."

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011 set out what sort of incidents are notifiable to WHSQ.

An incident is notifiable if it arises out of the conduct of a business or undertaking and results in the death, serious injury or serious illness of a person or involves a dangerous incident.

No infringement notices have been issued to date. 

WHSQ maintains a regular inspection schedule across the TSRC project.

Over 195 assessments have been completed since the project commenced.

Further site visits are planned on a monthly basis, with another 10 expected this month. 

Topics:  construction nexus rollovers safety second range crossing whsq work


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