CULPABILITY AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL

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Published on: March 4, 2012

This situation at the Adelaide Desalination Plant just keeps getting uglier as time goes on. The contemptuous disregard for occupational health and safety legislation by the very people we rely on to implement these laws has become the saddest irony of all. It is the classic case of; Do as I say, not as I do.

Freddy would have to be deaf, mute as well as blind, to think the warnings of safety hazards regarding the Adelaide Desalination Plant stopped or started with the water Minister Paul Caica. It is absolutely impossible to believe that this is the only Government mind that was aware of the state of affairs at that plant.

The writing was on the wall when we witnessed how swiftly officials moved to disassociate a worker’s death with a construction project. Let us not forget these same officials thought nothing of branding this deceased worker a “common thief” even though we struggled to find any evidence of any wrong doing when presented with SafeWork SA investigation files on the investigation.

It should come as no surprise to learn that people in both high and not so high places were made aware of the safety issues at the ADP. We read the transcript of the CFMEU from the Select committee hearing as they gave evidence. On several points they conceded that there was a constant attempt to address these safety concerns. We saw graphic images of parts of the ADP and the conditions the workers were being subjected to. We even had safety inspectors on site on a regular basis – well, this is what we have been led to believe to SafeWork SA.

All of this happened before Brett Fritsch was killed. Honestly, the main question now has to be how the heck those in controlling roles associated with this worksite can sleep? It is the most shameful and glaringly obvious example of accountability-handballing I have ever seen played. I think this will get much worse before it gets any better.

Interestingly, during the Select Committee hearing, one of the responses from the SafeWork SA directors made specific comment about scheduling and the speed of work. The below is taken from the Transcript of evidence given at the Legislative Council’s Select Committee On the Lonsdale-Based Adelaide Desalination Plant May 10th 2011- By SafeWork SA Director, Bryan Russell:

CONCERS RAISED ABOUT SCHEDULING AND SPEED OF WORK

In reply to: The Chairperson – Question

408. If there have been any concerns raised with regard to the scheduling and the speed of the work in terms of the scheduling to meet deadlines– that would also be of use to the committee.

RESPONSE:

“There have been no concerns raised, either through the investigation of incidents or through complaints, associated with work scheduling or the speed of work having an impact on safety.

SafeWork SA does not assess work scheduling per se, but requires all employers to ensure that any activity is carried out using a safe system of work”.

That almost seems impossible to fathom now doesn’t it?

In light of this information obtained by Rob Lucas through FOI, it’s hard to imagine safety concerns were raised with a water Minister and miraculously, it all stopped there. If that were true and he and his department sat on these warnings, then we support the push to see this Minister resign his position immediately . There is no reasoning that can articulate an excuse when it has come at the expense of human life.

In the meantime, wherever this goes next, we wish Brett Fritsch’s mother Charmaine and family enough strength and fortitude to get through this latest update.

For some there are important political gains to be made on this topic and we acknowledge that without their digging, we would likely not get to the bottom of what really happened at the Adelaide Desalination Plant. However, politics aside, it’s at the human level, in fact the core family unit, where the deepest cuts are left bleeding.

Lives lost – all so very preventable. Money and greed wins again.

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