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Tunnel inspections at Brisbane Airport Link uncover safety issues

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Construction on Australia's longest road tunnel ground to a halt last Friday with unions demanding a health and safety audit after a man who was struck on the head with a beam died on the weekend.

The Department of Justice and Attorney-General released a statement saying Workplace Health and Safety Queensland had issued 22 "enforcement notices" to the Airport Link's principal contractor Thiess and various sub-contractors.
"Those inspections have identified a range of workplace health and safety issues typical of large tunnelling projects in particular, but none directly related to last week's fatal incident," the statement said.
 
The enforcement notices related to a number of issues including: occupational exposure to dust; the safety of plant and moving equipment; falls from height; self-rescue devices; access to emergency stations; and fire-fighting equipment.
 
WHSQ inspectors are also conducting 12 investigations into the Airport Link that are not related to the investigation into the worker's death, the statement said.
 
Officials have upped their inspection regime from fortnightly to daily in the wake of last week's fatal incident.
 
Earlier, a senior union official said workers will not return to the site until at least today.
 
Electrical Trades Union spokesman Peter Ong said more than half of the site was inspected on Tuesday by union officials, representatives of construction company Thiess John Holland and the health and safety officers.
 
"We've audited two-thirds of the project and this morning we will continue with the audit and at the same time we will get blokes to go in and start rectification work," Mr Ong said yesterday.
 
"They will work through the list of issues we got out of the audit yesterday and we will continue with the rest of the audit.
 
"When the rectification is done, blokes will return to work.
 
"It won't be this afternoon. The earliest will be tomorrow morning." Union leaders were briefing their members at a meeting at Kedron football ground, where about 1200 workers were gathered, yesterday morning.
 
All workers were being paid while the audit was being conducted and Mr Ong said he was pleased with the co-operation of Thiess John Holland.
 
"We have the full site again turn up this morning," Mr Ong said.
 
The $5.6 billion Airport Link, Australia's largest road infrastructure project, is due to be completed by mid-2012.
 
It will connect the Brisbane's central business district with the Clem Jones Tunnel and the East-West Arterial Road which leads to the Brisbane Airport.
 
The tunnel project, part of a major new toll road, would remove up to 18 sets of traffic lights for motorists travelling from the CBD to Brisbane Airport, reducing travel time by up to 50 per cent, the government said. It will be the longest road tunnel in Australia, with 5.2km of its 6.7km length underground.
 
Thiess John Holland said Tuesday's audits, involving officers from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, did not identify any serious safety issues.
 
Some minor "housekeeping issues", such as cable placement and the testing and tagging of electrical equipment, were identified but those issues were being rectified.
 
The results of the audits were shared with workers yesterday morning, the statement from Thiess John Holland said.
 
Unions and the company are expected to hold further discussions.
 
All project employees will observe a minute's silence for the worker who died last week, the statement said.

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