Work was stopped on the new Clarence Correctional Centre last week over safety concerns
Work was stopped on the new Clarence Correctional Centre last week over safety concerns INFRASTRUCTURE NSW

Grafton Jail given green light, for now

AFTER downing tools last week due to safety concerns, a contingent of Grafton jail construction workers returned to the job on Friday after being given the all-clear by the union and employer John Holland.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union North Coast official Dean Rielly said their involvement in the shutdown of work on the new Clarence Correctional Centre wasn't done for fun.

Project manager John Holland shut down the site after the union raised safety concerns last week.

Mr Rielly said yesterday that all ground level work such as excavation, plumbing and electrical had been given the green light to resume on Friday. All work above ground level was still undergoing compliance checks, and waiting for the revision of safety procedures.

"It may take some time for everyone to get back to work. We've been going through with John Holland to the contractors and going through their procedures," Mr Rielly said.

He said the shutdown occurred after the union inspected the site on consecutive days and found issues with access points, a lack of water on site and dirty lunch rooms and toilets, and scaffolding, including two alleged incidents where one worker fell through a penetration point and one was hit by a kick board.

"We sat down with John Holland who agreed to close the site," Mr Rielly said.

A statement provided by John Holland said the safety of their team was their top priority.

"Work restarted on site on Friday," it stated. "We make no apologies for assessing work on a case-by-case basis to ensure the safety of our employees and subcontractors."

John Holland had made no response to the alleged incidents by print deadline.

Mr Rielly said while many people saw the CFMEU's involvement as costly and had a stigma, their statistics showed an important reason for their monitoring of sites.

"If we don't do this, people get killed," Mr Rielly said. "Forty-four people lost their lives in the construction industry, it was one of the worst years we had, and obviously if we don't maintain compliance that's what can happen.

"We don't do this for fun."

Mr Rielly said that under the Workplace and Safety Act, John Holland had an obligation to monitor and upgrade their procedures given the number of workers, trades and contractors on site.

"It's constantly changing, and they need to monitor that and make sure they are compliant," he said.

"With a job that potentially has 1600 workers on site at once, that's 1600 chances of killing someone. Construction is the highest risk industry... and we'll make sure we monitor this site."