Oct 19, 2016

The cost in dead workers of the government’s construction ‘watchdog’

Restoring the ABCC should lead to improved safety in the construction industry, right? Except last time, it oversaw a rise in construction industry deaths.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

As a bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission returns to the political spotlight, what would be the impact of the return of the ABCC on safety in the construction industry? Construction is usually the fourth worst industry for workplace fatalities (behind agriculture, transport and mining, respectively) and in 2015, 33 workers died in the sector, according to data released in recent days by Safe Work Australia. The data allows us to have a look at the long-term trend in fatalities in the construction sector as a proportion of the overall workforce, and a pattern plainly emerges -- a downward trend in construction sector fatalities that commenced before the ABCC was established by the Howard government was halted and reversed while the original ABCC operated, and then resumed after it was "neutered" (to use the word of former ABCC head, hardline IR reform advocate John Lloyd) by Labor.


If construction sector deaths return to the average level of the ABCC years, it will mean an extra 10 deaths a year. -- Bernard Keane

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5 thoughts on “The cost in dead workers of the government’s construction ‘watchdog’

  1. Graeski

    Yeah but they’re probably Labor voters so from the LNP’s point of view that’s a good thing. I mean, it’s not like we’re talking about a political party built on principles and ethics.

    1. Venise Alstergren

      GRAESKI & WOOPWOOP: Ooooo, such delicious cynicism.

  2. Woopwoop

    What’s a few workplace deaths? Unless it’s in a Labor government home insulation scheme, then it’s a scandalous tragedy.

  3. bushby jane

    Turnbull should be more concerned about the effects of the collapse of bob day’s building empire; on the financial losses of contractors and home owners, and the failure of the accreditation controls that are supposed to stop this sort of thing happening. Same accreditation controls that were largely the cause of the pink bats problems.

    1. alan austin

      What pink batts problem, Jane?

      “For the first eight months of the insulation program, there were fires and some injuries, but no fatalities. This suggests that the safety measures urgently developed in consultation with Minter Ellison and others and implemented by DEEWR were substantially sound.

      “By the end of the program in February 2010, only one fatality – that of Marcus Wilson who died of heat exhaustion – had occurred where regulations were complied with.
      Improvement in fire safety during the HIP is shown in the detailed fire data here: CSIRO Risk Profile Analysis – Guidance for the Home Insulation Safety Program. [22]

      “Valuable further analysis of the CSIRO data by researcher Scott Steel has been published by Crikey on its psephological blog Pollytics (link) …

      “Specifically regarding electrocutions, tables from the National Coronial Information Service show the total number of deaths over the three years of the Labor government from 2008 to 2010 averaged 13 per year. This includes three insulation workers killed during the HIP.

      “The average rate of electrocution deaths over the six years from 2001 to 2006 was 22.5.

      “So it appears that all the risk assessment and mitigation during the HIP worked effectively in reducing electrical safety risks as well as workplace danger across all construction work.

      “It is unlikely there has been another industry in Australia – or elsewhere in the world – where there was such a huge rise in construction activity with an accompanying drop in the rate of adverse incidents as dramatic as that during the HIP.”,6827

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