Local News

NT union calls for work manslaughter laws

bladin point inpex credit 1

Inpex says safety is the "number one value" on its Northern Territory gas plant after a union urged the government to introduce industrial manslaughter laws following the death of a worker.

Carl Delaney, 56, died last week at the multi-billion dollar LNG project's Bladin Point construction site in Darwin while installing insulation inside a cryogenic tank.

The Electrical Trades Union says in the past four years the Inpex project has been plagued by a culture of fear and intimidation against workers who speak out about safety issues.

But the Japanese-owned company says employees are encouraged to raise safety concerns at any point.

"Before every shift begins, pre-start meetings are required to be held where safety is discussed," Inpex said in a statement.

ETU NT secretary Peter Ong says industrial manslaughter laws may be the only way to force companies such as Inpex, JKC and their contractors to fulfil their safety obligations and prevent further tragedies.

"We owe it to Carl and his family to make sure we fix the culture on this project and try and stop this culture from continuing on other construction sites," he said.

"The only thing that is going to stop these companies and big business from putting workers lives secondary to profits is the threat of going to jail for killing workers."

Mr Ong also demanded Labor strengthen health and safety legislation and audit NT Work Safe.

Inpex maintains "major" construction work was suspended the day after Mr Delaney's death on Thursday to allow colleagues to mourn, but the ETU says only the area surrounding the fatality was closed off by NT Work Safe.

"For these contractors to turn around and push these workers back out to work without completely reviewing safety procedures is not only disgusting, but has put more workers' lives at risk," Mr Ong said.

Inpex said each JKC subcontractor was required to undertake a review of their area, including "re-verification of safety measures and procedures", before work resumed.

The ETU says Inpex and JKC should have directed a full site audit, but this did not occur and repeated requests to meet with hierarchy have been denied.

Mr Ong said many workers fear that if they come forward with safety complaints they'll be blacklisted and let go at the next round of redundancies, or if they are within their six-month probation period they'll be terminated on the spot.

In March last year, 500 Inpex workers marched through Darwin to protest unsafe work practices and arduous rosters at the project, alleging standards were compromised to meet deadlines.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn wants laws changed to allow injured workers to sue negligent companies for compensation, which would bring the Territory into line with the rest of the country.

Mr Ong said new federal industrial laws allowed contractors to accuse workers who raise safety concerns of creating "illegal industrial action".

"This has become a business model for these companies now... and the result is quite clear -- workers are getting injured and in worst-case scenarios are losing their lives," he said.