Union calls for industrial manslaughter laws in NT after contractor killed
Summary: The Northern Territory Government should "urgently" introduce industrial manslaughter laws following the death of a worker at the Inpex Ichthys LNG plant near Darwin last week, the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) says.....
Carl Delaney, 56, was working in a confined space installing perlite insulation inside a cryogenic tank at the Inpex site at Bladin Point for subcontractor Whittens when he was killed last Wednesday night.
Perlite is a loose-fill white granular material made of volcanic glass, and is non-combustible.
Industrial manslaughter legislation might be the only way to force companies such as Inpex, JKC, and other contractors "to fulfil their safety obligations to workers and prevent further tragedies occurring", ETU NT and Queensland state secretary Peter Ong said in a statement on Wednesday.
"We owe it to Carl and his family to make sure we fix the culture on this project and try and stop this culture from continuing on other construction sites," Mr Ong said.
"We call on the NT Government to strengthen their health and safety legislation, to audit NT WorkSafe and introduce industrial manslaughter laws like those introduced in Queensland."
NT Govt delays introducing laws
Attorney General Natasha Fyles said the Northern Territory will wait for the outcome of a national review of work place health and safety laws before it moves to introduce industrial manslaughter legislation.
Queensland became the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce the laws in October this year.
Ms Fyles said any legislation introduced in the Territory should reflect laws around the rest of the country.
"Queensland have stepped out of sync with the other jurisdictions that are looking at this and bought in their own legislation," she said.
"We are participating in that national review and certainly will await the outcomes of that before we move to make any changes."
An industrial manslaughter law was introduced in Queensland after the deaths of two workers at the Eagle Farm Racecourse, and the deaths of four visitors to the Dreamworld Theme Park, both in 2016.
The Queensland Government said the laws were intended to save lives and to hold negligent employers accountable for deaths occurring at their workplace.
Alleged culture of 'fear and intimidation'
Mr Ong said the day after Mr Delaney's death, when unions were permitted access to the Inpex site, NT WorkSafe had closed off the surrounding area.
"What we found was instead of the whole site being shut down and JKC and Inpex ordering a complete full-site audit, contractors were trying to push workers straight back out to work again with minimal concern for their safety," Mr Ong said.
"For these contractors to turn around and push these workers back out to work without completely reviewing safety procedures is not only disgusting but has put more workers' lives at risk."
The ETU said its efforts to meet with Inpex and JKC had so far been unsuccessful.
Mr Ong alleged that over the past four years, the Inpex Ichthys project had been "plagued by a culture of fear and intimidation against workers who spoke out against safety issues".
"The only thing that is going to stop these companies and big business from putting workers' lives secondary to profits is the threat of going to jail for killing workers," Mr Ong said.
"If workers spoke up about safety issues they would either be put on a blacklist and let go at the next round of redundancies, or if they were within their six-month probation period they'd be terminated on the spot," he said.
Mr Ong said new federal industrial laws permitted contractors to accuse workers raising safety concerns of creating "illegal industrial action".
"This has become a business model for these companies now — to just threaten workers that they are taking illegal industrial action whenever they bring up issues around safety," he said.
"And the result is quite clear — workers are getting injured and in worst-case scenarios are losing their lives."
Inpex has been contacted for comment.