Engineering, Passenger Rail

Budget funds for safety inspectors on Canberra light rail

Canberra light rail. Graphic: ACT Government

The ACT Government is committing funds in the upcoming budget for three additional WorkSafe inspectors in an effort to improve safety during the construction of Canberra’s light rail stage one project.

The announcement comes after a safety inspection on the construction sites carried out last week by members of the CFMEU raised several safety concerns. For instance, two construction workers were sent home after it was established that they had not received proper induction in safety procedures, and, further, that water crash barriers used on site had not been filled with water.

CFMEU ACT secretary Dean Hall told The Canberra Times it was “concerning that fundamental safety measures like induction and traffic management plans are not being implemented”.

“These are the cornerstone and the first barrier in a safety system and if these simple and fundamental things cannot be done, it raises concerns how possible high level safety issues have been dealt with,” he reportedly said.

In December last year a construction worker at Canberra Light Rail site was taken to hospital after reportedly receiving an electric shock while working to move utilities along the planned route. Another worker was also reportedly injured in a further unrelated incident involving a traffic barrier.

The Canberra Times has reported that funding for the new WorkSafe inspectors will cost $715,000 over three years. Three positions will be covered over the next financial year, with two positions covered in 2018-19, and only one across 2019-20.

Minister for regulatory services, Gordon Ramsay, said that the funding showed the government was serious about worker safety.

“The importance of this project and the unique nature of the construction required a proactive approach to regulatory oversight of work safety. This investment in the 2017-18 Budget is a further demonstration of our commitment to the work safety and efficient delivery of our commitments,” Ramsay said.

ACT transport minister Meegan Fitzharris similarly emphasised government commitment to maintaining safety standards during the construction phase for the light rail project.

“The light rail network is the biggest infrastructure project in the ACT’s history and will support hundreds of jobs during the construction phase,” minister Fitzharris said.

“The network will transform our city and we want to ensure the work is completed as safely as possible for the workers involved and the community.”