CFMEU calls for an independent safety commissioner

Published: 7 Nov 2018

Secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union's Greater Green Triangle District, Brad Coates has called for the establishment of a new, independent safety commissioner for South Australia and for coronial inquests into deaths at work to be mandatory.

Mr Coates said that following the CFMEU Construction and General Division’s submission to the coronial inquest into the death of construction worker, Jorge Castillo-Riffo, it has highlighted the urgency of strengthening our laws surrounding workplace safety.

“Workers have lost faith in the current system to enforce safety and compliance throughout workplaces.

“It is almost two years since four young men tragically lost their lives in a workplace accident in the South East and the silence has been deafening in regards to results of investigations into four workplace deaths. Safework SA were quoted stating there was no evidence of any breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 that warranted the ”initiation of prosecution” against any party.

“This workplace tragedy where four people were killed should at the very least be investigated by a coronial inquest to give the families of the deceased some closure, and this procedure should be mandatory for all deaths in the workplace,” Mr Coates said.

He said the fatigue management programs, trialled as a result of the 2016 accident, were only delivering modest improvements, and there is still strong evidence of some employees still working long and unsafe hours in the harvesting and haulage section of the timber industry.

“Fatigue management programs were only as good as the agency appointed to monitor compliance and in this case Safework SA, has a recent history of not being up to the task of enforcing compliance standards in workplaces in the state.

“Self-regulation has proved to be a disaster in workplace safety”. Mr Coates said.

Key recommendations made by the CFMEU to the recent coronial inquiry include;

  • Mandatory coronial inquests should be held into all deaths at work, with a mandatory requirement for the reporting of any action taken, or proposed to be taken, in consequence of any findings and recommendations made;
  • Families of the deceased workers should receive funding to be represented;
  • SafeWork SA has failed to commence any prosecutions or civil proceedings for breaches of workplace safety laws that do not result in injury or death, and this needs to stop;
  • The investigation unit of SafeWork SA should be disbanded, with investigative work given to the police and prosecution work given to the DPP;
  • Introduction of industrial manslaughter laws; and
  • A judicial inquiry should be held to report on measures to stamp out employment practices that deter workers from raising concerns about workplace safety.  


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Authorised by Michael O'Connor, National Secretary, 540 Elizabeth St Melbourne Vic 3000