Glass Roof Collapse in Australia, Kills Apprentice and Injures Two Others

A 23-year-old worker died and two others were seriously injured after a glass roof collapsed at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. According to 9News, apprentice Jonnie Hartshorn was sealing panels on the glass ceiling between university buildings when it collapsed suddenly. The three men reportedly work for ABS Façade. The Guardian newspaper reports that Hartshorn and another of the men fell approximately 65 feet to the ground.

According to global news reports, the site had been inspected three times in the past year and no issues with the glass canopy had been found. The cause of the collapse has not yet been determined.

“We can’t get close to the steel and glass structure because the structure is not stable, so we are utilizing other technologies to gather some evidence to assist us in determining what the cause of the incident is,” WorkSafe Western Australia (WA) commissioner Darren Kavanagh told News.com.au.

Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union Western Australia state secretary Mick Buchan told The Guardian he had been made aware after the incident that there had been issues with “deflection in the structural steel.”

Electrical Trades Union organizer Damian Clancey told World Socialist Web Site that workers on site “visually noticed a deflection in the steel, and there had been surveyors on site to check it out … several work crews raised it with management.”

One anonymous contractor who previously worked on the project told the West Australian that the site was unsafe. “I’m talking about 80-mm deflection… it was crazy… Even after the glass got laid (and the exclusion zone was removed), I wasn’t comfortable at all,” he said.

The newspaper also reported that Clancey had heard from work crews that “the level of sag in the steelwork had reached its recommended tolerance—about 40 mm—when just half of the glass had gone up. ‘They surveyed it, they said we’re OK with that and apparently gave the green light for an additional level of deflection when they deemed it safe,’ Clancey said. ‘My understanding is when the glass had finished being loaded, the sag had reached in excess of 80 mm.’”

A week after the incident, the WA government’s “Work Health and Safety Bill” passed through the Upper House. The bill would deem industrial manslaughter as a crime if it becomes law.

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