WorkSafe ACT has issued another stop work order for part of Canberra’s Cotter Dam construction site because of fresh safety concerns.
More than 20 serious safety issues have been reported since work began on the Cotter Dam enlargement project.
Canberra’s water authority ACTEW is enlarging the reservoir capacity from 4 gigalitres to about 78 gigalites.
In the past week there has been another two incidents, prompting WorkSafe ACT to issue a 13th prohibition notice.
Workers drilling near a crane accidentally severed its cable while the power was on.
ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe says the workers are lucky to be alive.
“A large electrical cable as thick as my arm and the cable was live at the time,” he said.
“WorkSafe is investigating that matter. It’s a very serious matter, it could have led to a fatality.
“I’ve asked the investigators to advise me whether there’s been a breach of the Work Health and Safety law that should be referred to the DPP.”
In the other incident, a bolt came off a lower section of a crane, compromising its entire structure.
“That can seriously and realistically lead to the crane falling down,” said Dean Hall from the CFMEU.
Mr Hall says poor bolts are being used to hold the cranes together, and they must be examined.
“Our members say there’s probably a bad batch of bolts have been used,” he said.
WorkSafe ACT has now shut down the crane.
Mr McCabe says the latest incidents are not isolated.
Last month there was an incident involving a roller overturning, and last year work was shut down on the site over concerns about formwork on an abutment wall.
Mr Hall says there are serious problems around communication on the site.
He says safety concerns raised by workers on the ground are being lost in middle management on their way to the top.
“We’re in situations where we’re raising safety concerns over and over again, and they don’t seem to be addressed,” he said.
“Some of the higher management out there are extremely frustrated by it.”
ACTEW chief executive Mark Sullivan says he is confident the construction site is a safe workplace.
He says John Holland and Abigroup are major Australian construction companies and safety is a core part of their business.
Mr Sullivan says most prohibition notices are issued by the company itself.
“Prohibition notices are a measure. We’d like to get no prohibition notices. We bring most prohibition notices on ourself,” he said.
“So in terms of the prohibition notice on the crane at the moment, it was because we found a bolt, we notified the crane owner. The crane owner’s engineers came and discovered where the issue was.
“We notified ComCare, WorkSafe were also notified. I understand we have a prohibition notice as we’re about to clean up the issue.”
Mr Sullivan says the companies involved are working to improve communications.
“Since we resumed work on the 3rd of January and put in place a whole range of new systems, which basically brings down to the workplace the listing of issues of concern, I think communications on the site has been improved tremendously,” he said.
On the topic of budget and time, Mr Sullivan says he will have more details on the final cost of the project and completion date later this month.
“It’s going to be later than we had hoped. We lost about 60 per cent of November and December through rain. This year’s been a bit better – we lost four days last week because of rain,” he said.
“The schedule is certainly going to be later, cost is under pressure.
“I’d love to put my hand on my heart and say I’m going to come in under budget or on budget. I can’t do that at this stage. I’m not confident I’ll come in on budget.
“I’m more worried now about making sure I come in as close to budget as I possibly can.”
Mr Sullivan says a fault line discovered in the foundation of the dam during construction cost an extra $10 million.
“If that had been the only issue in the dam, if wet weather had not been the biggest issue, I would be holding my hand on my heart and and saying budget’s not a problem, we’re going to meet out budget. We could have absorbed that,” he said.
“Rain has been the biggest problem on this site.”