Tougher laws needed for unsafe building products: union

Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union

Tuesday, 02 February, 2016

The CFMEU is calling on the federal government to improve regulations over the use of imported and unsafe building products that fail to meet Australian standards.

The union said it had raised serious concerns in May last year but the government has fallen “asleep at the wheel” over the issue while the lives of the public remain at risk.

A unit fire in Melbourne’s Lacrosse building in November 2014 allegedly exposed the issue of non-compliant imported aluminium cladding with a plastic core being used in high-rise buildings in breach of the building code.

Research conducted by the AI Group shows many companies in the building and construction sector believe their market is penetrated by non-conforming product.[1]

The union said a more recent example involves student accommodation in Brisbane, currently sitting empty, which was constructed using aluminium cladding similar to the product linked to the Lacrosse building fire.

The product is reportedly certified overseas for its fire-retardant qualities but is not tested or passed in Australia.

“This issue is not just isolated to the Mary Street project in Brisbane. The union has major concerns over the safety of potentially thousands of students who are currently residing in similar units built by the same developer in Kelvin Grove, Sydney and Melbourne and workers and residents in high-rise buildings throughout the country,” said CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor.

He said it was time the government took a hard line as companies are putting the lives and safety of Australians at risk by misusing products not designed for high-rise buildings.

“It is abhorrent to see that the federal government have chosen to ignore public outrage and the advice from this union and have done nothing to correct the laws surrounding the use of imported building products,” said O’Connor.

He added that the union is currently in the process of completing an audit of the developer and projects with similar cladding to ensure the health and safety of the community.

[1] The Australian Industry Group, 2013, ‘The quest for a level playing field: The non-conforming building products dilemma’, <www.aigroup.com.au/portal/binary/com.epicentric.contentmanagement.servlet.ContentDeliveryServlet/LIVE_CONTENT/Publications/Reports/2013/REPORT_NCP_FINAL.pdf>, p5.

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