ETU exposes safety breaches on biggest transmission project

Electrical Trades Union

SafeWork NSW is on the ground inspecting the worksites of Australia’s largest renewable energy transmission project, after the Electrical Trades Union uncovered major safety breaches.

An inspection blitz by the ETU last week exposed dangerous workplace practices and conditions on the sites of Project EnergyConnect, a massive transmission line connecting power grids in South Australia, NSW and Victoria.

Those breaches include the use of non-compliant harnesses and first aid kits, poor food, water and sun safety, unqualified workers conducting electrical work, and no toilets.

Unreliable mobile-radio communications and inadequate first-aid procedures also recently kept a worker who was suffering a stroke waiting 90 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

“Elecnor is a repeat and reckless offender when it comes to workplace safety on Project EnergyConnect,” ETU national secretary Michael Wright said. “The fact that the workplace health and safety regulator has boots on the ground to investigate should be ringing alarm bells to Elecnor and Transgrid.

“Building Australia’s largest renewable energy transmission line should be a source of pride, but instead it seems to inspire greed, risking the safety of hundreds of workers.

“Apart from being provided some hi-vis clothing and a vehicle, workers have largely been left to fend for themselves on the lines. Workers have been dodging falling objects, and wearing fraying and non-compliant harnesses. When something goes wrong, they’ve waited an eternity for help.

“Our members have been denied basic rights, crammed in crib sheds, and are lucky to score a toilet on site. This cannot be what the energy transition looks like.”

As the federal government plans to underwrite an extra 32GW of renewable power to drive more investment, while spending $20 billion to modernise the electricity grid as part of the energy transition, the ETU said it was incumbent upon national leaders and developers to protect workers and raise standards.

“This project has had a horror track record for the rights of workers – safety has been back of mind, wages have been suppressed and corners have been cut. Exploitation and unsafe working conditions are making it that much harder to attract the workforce we need to transition the nation to net zero,” Mr Wright said.

“Australia needs Project EnergyConnect to secure Australia’s electricity network yet clearly Elecnor and Transgrid don’t care about the security of workers who are building it.

“The ETU is doing everything it can to make sure this essential national project is built safely and to high quality. We are getting the job done to stablise the national grid, but we won’t allow it to come at the cost of workers’ lives and livelihoods.”

/Public Release.