HOT WORK: Construction on the Pacific Hwy between Nambucca and Urunga.
HOT WORK: Construction on the Pacific Hwy between Nambucca and Urunga. RMS

Union says contractors are putting workers' lives in danger

AT a time when the road toll is never out of the news, a union has said another group of people are failing their duty of care and putting lives at risk.

But this time it's not drivers, it's workers who are in the danger zone.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) is accusing contractors on North Coast roads projects of disregarding safety obligations and putting the lives of their workers on the line during the recent heatwave.

And they have called on the new Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey, to take action against business who put profits ahead of worker safety, particularity those working on Pacific Hwy upgrades.

The CFMEU accuse contractors of dangerous safety breaches, including people working on high bridges without fall protection, cranes lifting steel girders with workers underneath and no protective capping on reinforcement, working with suspected out-of-date explosives and collisions between vehicles and plant equipment.

CFMEU Organiser Dean Rielly said the union is calling on the Roads and Maritime Service to step in and bring rogue contractors into line before someone dies.

"I don't think it s too much to ask he government to look these workers, they are dads, husbands, brothers and sons," he said.

"I call on the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey to do something before someone dies."

Mr Rielly said in recent incidents near Nambucca Heads, an excavator went through the side of a truck and emergency crews had to be called to help remove the driver, while at the same site a worker lost the tips of their fingers.

"We have real concerns that it will take a death before anyone acts on this," Mr Rielly said.

"We have tried to talk to RMS management and they refuse to meet with the union.

"The RMS has a responsibility and an obligation under law to ensure safety procedures are followed and they are failing to do this."

Mr Rielly said it is also unacceptable workers were told to stay on the job as temperatures hit 40C.

"We know working in extreme heat can lead to long-term health problems and even death, yet workers on the road projects across northern NSW were told to keep working as temperatures rocketed upward," he said.

"In building and construction, the CFMEU heat policy says work should stop once temperatures hit 35C and we believe RMS management should support this approach on road infrastructure work."

An RMS spokesperson said the safety of staff and contractors is of the highest importance to Roads and Maritime Services.

"Strict protocols exist to prevent risk across all construction activities on Pacific Highway upgrade projects, which are in line with the relevant safety legislation," the spokesperson said.

"To prevent risk of heat stress during prolonged hot weather, measures include eliminating exposure where possible, ensuring effective hydration, wearing protective clothing, taking breaks and stopping work when appropriate.

"Roads and Maritime will continue to work closely with our building partners to ensure the highest level of safety across all our projects."

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