Unionists attack Bechtel over 'third-rate' safety standards

UNIONISTS have hit out at construction giant Bechtel, apparently over its support for a Queensland Safe Work breakfast.

Bechtel is sponsoring the Gladstone event on Wednesday morning, but CFMEU Gladstone organiser Ben Loakes has said the move flies in the face of the company's "third-rate" safety standards.

The salvo continues a war of words between Bechtel and the union, prompted by a medical evacuation from the QCLNG site on Curtis Island on Saturday.

The incident involved a crane falling from a rail, fracturing bones in one worker's foot.

Mr Loakes said workers were "constantly raising concerns about near misses, and the number of incidents that have not been notified to the authorities."

The stoush follows another safety conference in Mackay last month, which saw Bechtel's QCLNG project manager Philip Newsome acknowledge a previous "poor safety culture" on Curtis Island.

He said lost time injuries had been occurring every two to three weeks, but insisted the past six months had seen an improvement.

Mr Newsome blamed the issue on Bechtel leadership, which "basically bulldozed their way in here", but said nearly 15 months of improved consulation had turned the culture around.

But Mr Loakes insisted that foreign workers and managers refusal to address safety issues were still causing "sheer frustration" on site.

Bechtel Gladstone General Manager Kevin Berg has hit back at those claims, saying safety was "proactively managed".

"The majority of our safety teams are Australians and we do have some Americans with decades of experience in construction."

Last month, the QCLNG site experienced another safety issue, when bolts were allegedly removed from a number of chain block lifting devices.

Workplace Safety Queensland is still investigating what has been described as suspected sabotage.


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