Strong new laws to prevent work-site deaths

Today our Government is introducing new laws to prevent workplace deaths. This is an edited statement I made the Parliament this morning.

Mr Speaker,

As the Minister for Industrial Relations expressed so eloquently yesterday, this government is determined to see the end of workplace deaths in this state.

Safety must be paramount across all industries, and especially in the building and construction industry.

Mr Speaker, in 2012, twenty year old Jason Garrels started a new job on a housing construction project in Clermont.

Nine days later, while cleaning up the unsafe site, Jason was killed by a 5 second electric shock from wiring that should have been properly secured but wasn’t.

Jason’s mother Lee, a nurse educator, was on-call at the hospital in Clermont that day. She was told to prepare for a patient who had been electrocuted.

Shortly before Jason arrived she was told that the patient was Jason.

It is impossible to imagine what that must have felt like, Mr Speaker.

As a parent this situation is too much too think about. I’m sure everyone in this House feels the same.

To lose a child, at work. In an environment that should have been safe — that should have had protections.

Jason’s death was entirely avoidable Mr Speaker. Entirely avoidable.

Mr Speaker, everyone should go to work knowing that they will come home at the end of the day.

It’s a right that every worker, every family member and friend should have.

And in too many cases, like Jason’s — this tragically hasn’t been the case.

Mr Speaker, Jason’s parents Michael and Lee are with us in the gallery today.

Since Jason’s death Michael and Lee Garrels have been passionate and determined advocates for common sense reforms to ensure safety on workplace across Queensland.

Mr Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that I will be introducing a Bill that will enable the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to take action where there is a threat to the safety of workers on building sites.

The recommendations of the Coroner in Mr Garrels’ Inquest made it clear that there is a need for the building regulator to be notified if there is a death, a serious injury or a serious risk to health and safety on a building site.

Under our proposed changes, QBCC licensees will have that obligation.

Licence holders will also be required to let the QBCC know if they think that a person is not complying with, for example, an electrical safety notice.

The powers of the QBCC will be strengthened and clarified so it can decide to cancel a licence if a licensee has caused death or serious injury to a person on a building site or is causing serious risk to the health and safety of a person.

Mr Speaker, last Monday Jason would have turned 26.

Mr Speaker, if you fail to protect the safety of workers you do not deserve to hold a building licence in this state.

A licence is a privilege and not a right.

Let me be clear.

Builders who do the right thing, who behave in a way consistent with the expectations of our community, should not have to compete with builders who consistently cut corners be it on quality, payments or safety.

I commend Michael and Lee Garrels for their tireless advocacy.

Their work can never change what has tragically happened, nor will these new laws that the Palaszczuk Government will introduce today.

But I have no doubt that better laws — real Labor laws — will help save other families from the grief that the Garrels family have been through.

These are laws that will save lives.

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