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John Holland escapes prosecution after yet another safety breach

June 6, 2022

The AWU has again raised concerns about John Holland’s safety record after the construction giant narrowly escaped prosecution over a worker’s seven-metre fall on the Sydney Metro rail project.

The worker was a contractor at Sydney Metro’s Castle Hill Station site, where John Holland was the principal contractor.

He was on a mezzanine level when he stepped on a board covering a void and the board gave way, causing him to fall and land on the concrete floor below, suffering a broken leg and other injuries.

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said the AWU members working at several John Holland projects, including Sydney’s West Connex Rozelle Interchange and Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel have raised safety concerns, with Comcare contacted on multiple occasions.

“Some of the breaches we see from John Holland sites – including this one on the Sydney Metro project – clearly suggest John Holland is not doing all that is reasonably practicable to care for the safety of workers,” Mr Walton said.

“John Holland is a major player in the industry and should have a safety record that is befitting of a company that relies on billions of dollars worth of government money.

“Unfortunately these cases suggest otherwise.”

The construction giant was charged with a category-2 breach of the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011, in relation to the September 2018 Castle Hill fall.

It was accused of failing to comply with its duty to provide and maintain a work environment without risks to health and safety. Alleged contraventions included failing to ensure the board was properly fastened in place.

John Holland was granted permission to enter a $1.2 million enforceable undertaking in lieu of prosecution over the fall at Castle Hill, and will develop a freely available virtual reality app for identifying height risks.

But in making its decision Comcare noted two previous convictions against John Holland under the Act, most recently in May 2017.

In that case it was fined $281,250 for three safety breaches on Adelaide’s South Road Superway project.

That followed a 2013 incident where two large cranes collided with an elevated work platform while loading sections of a road bridge on to trucks. A labour-hire worker operating the EWP was unable to jump free, but managed to lean out of the basket to avoid being crushed and escaped with leg and back injuries.

In relation to the Sydney Metro enforceable undertaking, Comcare said in its ruling it was “satisfied that in this circumstance the WHS undertaking will deliver superior work health and safety outcomes to a possible court sanction”.

This was after John Holland committed to sharing insights from the incident and its working-at-height initiatives, and making the virtual reality training app available for free to the broader construction industry.

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