SA safety crisis

Friday, 12 May, 2006

The Quins munitions plant explosion near Gladstone has prompted SA Unions to call for an urgent overhaul of workplace safety standards in South Australia.

SA Unions Secretary, Janet Giles described South Australian workplaces as being in a health and safety crisis.

She says at least 4 people have died in industrial accidents over the past 24 days. Several others have been seriously injured including a construction worker who fell down a lift shaft on April 4, severing his spine and rendering him paraplegic.

The tragic spate of workplace deaths in the past month was the focal point of a rally on the steps of Parliament House yesterday.

Ms Giles says the deaths of three men in this week's munitions factory explosion means in a month, 6 workers have lost their lives for the sake of their jobs. The rally will call on the state government to strengthen occupational health and safety laws to protect workers.

"I fear the situation will only worsen under the new federal industrial laws."

"With workers fearful of their jobs, they will be less likely to say no to unsafe work practices."

Ms Giles is calling on the state government to take urgent action to protect South Australian workers.

"We call on the SA Government to take immediate action, because the federal laws will only make matters worse," Ms Giles says.

"The federal industrial laws have made it harder to maintain safe work standards. Workers are reluctant to stand up for safety because they can be sacked."

"We have what is undeniably a health and safety crisis. These appalling accidents must stop. It requires tough action by the state government to bolster and enforce workplace safety standards."

"Because the federal laws don't promote safety - in fact they specifically prevent employers being liable for industrial manslaughter - it means there is a greater responsibility on the state government to act."

"We want tough action NOW. That must include:

  • Significantly increased penalties for negligent employers
  • More action by Workplace Inspectors
  • Permission for union officials to enter workplaces for health and safety issues
  • Protection from victimisation, and increased training for health and safety officers
  • Guaranteed protection for workers who refuse to do unsafe work
  • Faster and more thorough investigations of incidents

"Prevention is better than reaction. Tough action to prevent deaths is what we need," Ms Giles says.

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