Apprentice Worker Dead in University Roof Collapse

Two workers have been injured and one apprentice left dead after a glass roof collapsed at Curtin University, with some workers now saying they had raised concerns in the past over the site’s safety. 

It’s believed that the roof, constructed from steel and glass collapsed around midday on Tuesday, which killed 23-year-old apprentice worker, Jonnie Hartshorn who was working on the roof. Hartshorn’s body, along with two men aged 26 and 27 were pulled from the collapsed structure and taken to hospital. 

In the days since the tragic accident, Damian Clancey of the Electrical Trades Union, who was on site when the roof collapsed, has said that “I was probably 25 or 30 meters away. I saw one of the men lying on the ground screaming… I stopped myself from rushing into the building. You want to help but you realise it could continue to collapse,” he said. 

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Mr Clancey says that after the roof’s collapse, he raised his concerns with workers on the site, who reportedly shared his concerns. 

“They’d visually noticed a deflection in the steel, and there had been surveyors on-site to check it out,” he said.  “Several work crews raised it with management… I can only assume the attitude was ‘well, we have to have faith in the engineers’ and continue working,” he told the ABC

“I accept accidents can and do happen. Legitimate accidents are not always the result of negligence,” Chancey continued. “But from my experience, when this sort of thing happens, it is almost always preventable if things have been managed properly.” 

It’s expected that investigators will take a close look at the steel beams used by the construction site to support glass panels on the roof.

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The site was being operated by Lendlease, who labelled the events as a “tragic incident.” 

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident, and our immediate priority is to support the workers’ families, friends and colleagues,” Lendlease CEO, Dale Connor said in a statement. “The site remains closed and support is being provided to the Curtin University team during this difficult time.” 

“Safety is Lendlease’s highest priority and the company is working closely with relevant authorities,” Connor said. 

Mick Buchan, state secretary of the CFMEU has said that the death was an “absolute disgrace,” and that “there’s going to be a lot of explaining to do.”

“It’s a tragic loss of life, particularly a young life, and it affects all of us,” Buchan said, adding that “we’re not going to leave any rock unturned to get to the outcome of what’s happened in this event.” 

“It’s 2020 – these events should not occur in the building and construction industry,” Buchan concluded. 

Western Australia’s Deputy Premier, Roger Cook has said the state would be launching a formal investigation, stating that “there will be an inquiry into this workplace accident because it has a construction site, and these inquiries will go across a number of different laws and protocols.” 

Darren Kavanaugh, the commissioner of Worksafe has told the ABC Radio Perth that no previous complaints or concerns had been shared with his department leading up to the accident. 

He has said that “these incidents invariably take a long time to investigate,” and that “the team will look at all of the evidence at the scene.” 

“Obviously a roof has collapsed,” Kavanaugh continued. “There’s steel and glass framing that’s failed. We’ll need to look at all of the elements,” he said. “I don’t know if our inspectors had been to the site, but there hasn’t been any formal complaints from the workplace,” he said. 

The accident comes at a time where West Australia’s government attempts to push through a more stringent Work Health Safety Bill. The bill would see tougher penalties for organisations that failed to comply with workplace health and safety instructions. 

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