Claims of an incident involving a “precariously” dangling shipping container that is said to have endangered the lives of workers at the 189MW Suntop solar project, south of Dubbo in regional New South Wales, are being investigated.
Video footage and photographs distributed along with a media release from the NSW and ACT branch of the Electrical Trades Union show a shipping container being shifted by a crane at the site, and appearing to hang dangerously over a portable lunch room with people inside.
The ETU claims the incident this week put workers lives at risk at the solar farm, and that despite multiple complaints to the company running the site, Bouygues Construction Australia, the matter was covered up and not reported to SafeWork NSW.
“These disgraceful conditions are endangering the lives of our members,” said Allen Hicks, the deputy secretary of the ETU, NSW and ACT branch.
“An exclusion zone should have been set up for the operation involving the shipping container, which was being lifted by a mobile crane.
“Instead, our members weren’t told it was happening and were shocked to realise a shipping container, which could easily crush them, was being moved right over their heads.
“Multiple complaints have been made but instead of making improvements, the company terminated the health and safety representative on this site.
“Clearly, basic safety standards are not being enforced and breaches are being swept under the rug.”
But in an emailed response to RenewEconomy on Thursday, a spokesperson for Bouygues said the incident was being investigated and that the construction company had reported it to the Dubbo office of SafeWork NSW “in due time.”
“The health and safety of our workforce is our number one priority,” Bouygues said in response to RE’s questions.
“We have been made aware of an incident that happened on Suntop solar farm on Tuesday. We can report that no one has been injured as a result of this matter. We notified SafeWork NSW (Dubbo office) in due time and the allegations towards the notification delay are untrue.
“The project is committed to the health and safety of our workforce. We are investigating the matter and are in close contact with SafeWork NSW.”
Bouygues – which is currently providing construction services at seven large-scale solar projects in NSW and Queensland – also said it rejected further claims from the ETU that the facilities at the work site were in poor state.
The ETU has claimed to have evidence of mice and rats eating food, “disgusting toilet and fridge conditions,” a lack of women’s hygiene facilities, and no access to fresh drinking water or shaded outside areas.
“Every worker is authorised and encouraged to stop work if they believe an activity is unsafe and raise any safety concerns with their supervisor or Health and Safety representative,” Bouygues said.