A 23-year-old apprentice starting out in his construction career was killed at a work site at Curtin University on Tuesday afternoon when he and another worker fell 20 metres from the roof of the building as it collapsed.

CFMEU WA state secretary Mick Buchan said the incident was an “absolute disgrace”.

“When we see a tragic loss of life, particularly a young life, it affects all of us,” he said.

“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. We’re seeing incidents similar to this … poor procurement, cheap tendering, poor design or under-design on construction projects.

“Enough is enough, something has got to give. Another young worker has lost his life today.”

Another two men, both in their 20s, were also injured after the ceiling collapsed at the building site where the new School of Design and the Built Environment is being constructed.

The 23-year-old apprentice and one of the other workers fell about 20 metres from the top of the building, WA Police said, while another man working within the structure fell about 10 metres.

Commander Mike Bell told reporters the dead man’s body remained on site and efforts were under way to make the site safe to retrieve him.

Emergency crews were called to the Bentley campus at 12.30pm following reports of people trapped by the collapse.

One of the injured men, 27, is in a critical condition and was rushed into surgery and the third man is stable at Royal Perth Hospital.

Witnesses said they saw two workers attached to harnesses fell through the glass roof.

Another witness from the building next door said he heard a loud “crack” followed by sirens and screaming immediately after.

Following the horrific incident, workers gathered in the park across the road, some wiping away tears.

Emergency crews and union officials remained at the scene on Tuesday afternoon.

The partially constructed building is the School of Design and the Built Environment, also known as building 418.

Work on the $110 million, five-storey facility began in 2019 and is due for completion next year.

The building is the first piece of the university’s Exchange innovation precinct, which will see research and teaching facilities co-located with commercial spaces.

The building project manager, Lendlease issued a statement on Tuesday night about the incident involving the three subcontractors, saying safety was the company’s highest priority.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident, and our immediate priority is to support the workers’ families, friends and colleagues,” Lendlease’s building chief executive officer Dale Connor said.

“The site remains closed and support is being provided to the Curtin University team during this difficult time.”

The statement said Lendlease was working closely with the relevant authorities.

A Curtin spokeswoman said no university students or staff were involved in the incident.

“Curtin University wishes to extend its sincere condolences, thoughts and support to all those impacted by today’s tragic incident on campus, which claimed the life of one construction worker and injured two others,” a statement from Curtin read.

“Curtin has cancelled events on campus this afternoon as a mark of respect to those so deeply affected by this tragedy.”


WA Today

October 13, 2020

By Heather McNeill, Lauren Pilat & Marta Pascual Juanola