Union claims Forrestfield Airport Link workers given rubber dinghies in tunnel

The rubber dinghy reportedly given to Forrestfield Airport Link workers, left, and the flooded tunnel.
The rubber dinghy reportedly given to Forrestfield Airport Link workers, left, and the flooded tunnel.

THE Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) claims electrical employees were given rubber dinghies to paddle through a flooded tunnel at the Forrestfield Airport Link construction site.

The project sprung a major leak on Saturday afternoon near the Forrestfield Station while work was underway to build an emergency cross passage.

Tunnel boring machines remain on hold as water continues to flow into one of the train tunnels being excavated as part of the major infrastructure project.

CFMEU state secretary Mick Buchan raised safety concerns about the project.

“With water flooding the tunnel, we’ve seen the ridiculous situation of electricians and other workers using rubber dinghies to get around inside to carry out work,” he said.

“If we hadn’t seen the photos for ourselves, we wouldn’t have believed it.

“Next they will be issuing snorkels just in case.”

The sinkhole that has opened up on Dundas Road.

Mr Buchan said workers were warned they faced the sack if they took photos or leaked any information.

“Salini-Impregilo have obstructed our officials from servicing workers in the tunnel,” he said.

“This latest episode is an absolute disgrace and the longer this tunnel goes, the worse things get.

“Engineers are trying to establish how this happened and it won’t be an easy or inexpensive fix.

“Soon the tunnel will go under the immense top ground pressure of the Swan River. What then?”

Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said she requested and received an urgent briefing on Monday about the leak and sinkhole issues.

“I hope I have made it clear that worker safety is the Government’s first priority, and we do not want to see corners cut at the expense of safety,” she said.

“I am advised that Worksafe attended the site on Sunday.

“The PTA and Worksafe have been asked to investigate any safety issues arising from photographs published recently online.

“I would expect safety practices on a government project to be of a high enough standard to hold up to scrutiny from any quarter.”

SI-NRW JV project director Richard Graham said the safety of workers, sub-contractors and the community was paramount.

“We have world-class equipment being used to build the tunnels and we have experienced tunnel experts from around the world on our team,” he said.

“We also work closely with key regulators to ensure our works meet required standards.”

Mr Buchan said the project looked set to go off the rails like the Perth Children’s Hospital, which was delayed by three years due to a host of construction problems including lead contamination in the water and the installation of asbestos-tainted roof panels.

“We don’t want to be sitting here again saying we told you so, but the fact remains this project has an appalling regard for safety,” he said.

“At the very least there should be a whole of site safety audit conducted on the entire project.”

Salini-Impregilo has been contacted for comment.