The tragic onsite death of Brett Fritsch at the Adelaide desalination plant project has brought to light major concerns regarding the safety of the work site and could lead to a drastic reform of current safety penalties.
Fritsch, 35, was killed when hit by a falling steel beam. Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU) state secretary Aaron Cartledge called the site ‘an accident waiting to happen’ after it was learned that the accident was the result of the crane-lifted steel beam being supported simply by a ‘soft sling’ rather a chain, as is common industry practice.
Ferro Con (SA) and the company’s director Paolo Maione now face an industrial court case over the incident. At present, with the company in a state of liquidation, there are major concerns that the courts will not have the power to prosecute or seek any kind of monetary penalties from Ferro Con.
The case will aim to determine the rights of the families of employees who have been injured or killed due to a workplace safety breach to receive monetary compensation. According to Fritsch family lawyer Steven Dolphin, legal reform is needed in order to support the families of such workers.
“The laws should be strengthened to allow victims, whether it be their family or the worker themselves, to pursue damages claims against negligent employers,” says Dolphin. “At the moment a negligent employer cannot be sued by an injured worker.”
Cartledge reiterates this point, seeking justice for the family and looking to change a system at large that he believes allows companies that shirk safety requirements off the hook.
“I think it’s a travesty of justice if a company can simply go into liquidation when they kill a worker on a site and avoid a fine and courts,” says Cartledge. “It was common knowledge right through the industry that the practices that were going on, the rushed timeframe, the practices of workers having to work over the top of each other, it was an accident waiting to happen.”