Home / World News / Perth worksite death fine ‘an insult’ to Gerard Bradley’s family

Perth worksite death fine ‘an insult’ to Gerard Bradley’s family

The family of an Irish worker killed on a Perth construction site say they feel insulted by the penalty handed to the company responsible for his death.

Gerard Bradley, 29, was one of two workers crushed by heavy tilt-up panels that fell as they were being unloaded from a trailer at an East Perth construction site in November 2015.

His devastated family in Northern Ireland this week described the $160,000 fine handed to transport company Axedale Holdings in May as a “slap in the face” and slammed laws protecting WA workers as weak.

“We are reluctant to call it an accident because we feel an accident is only when you do everything in your power to make sure someone is safe,” his brother Jon-Paul Bradley said.

“We just don’t understand why the law is so weak around worker safety. We know that if this had happened in the UK someone would have been charged for industrial manslaughter.”

Shortly before they died, Gerard Bradley and 24-year-old Joseph McDermott entered a popular smoking area that was adjacent to the trailer but had not been declared an exclusion zone. The panels, weighing more than three tonnes each, had not been individually restrained.

As a crane lifted a third, the trailer became unbalanced and the remaining panels crashed on top of the two workers.

“We were expecting big fines, we were expecting someone to be held to account for what happened,” Mr Bradley said.

Irish worker Gerry Bradley’s memorial.
Camera IconIrish worker Gerry Bradley’s memorial.Picture: Supplied

WA Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said the Labor Government had already significantly increased benefits for victims and their families and now had legislation before State Parliament to do the same with maximum fines.

“Clearly I don’t think the penalties that were handed out were adequate but they were the penalties that were determined under the current legislation which is why I am seeking to increase the penalties,” he said.

But Mr Johnston dismissed calls for WA to follow the lead of Victoria and Britain and introduce industrial manslaughter legislation to hold company directors and decision-makers to account. Greens MLC and former union official Alison Xamon has a Bill before Parliament to implement industrial manslaughter laws.

Ms Xamon said if individuals knowingly made decisions that could reasonably result in a loss of life, they should be held responsible.

“A workplace death is as serious as a death anywhere else, ” she said

CFMEU State secretary Mick Buchan said the union, which had remained in close contact with the Bradley family, was supportive of calls for industrial manslaughter laws.

“At the moment there is no deterrent whatsoever for employers or directors,” he said.

“We have got to put a deterrent in place, particularly in a cut-throat market like the construction industry that is highly competitive and they look at any way they can to cut costs.”

Jaxon, the company whose site Mr Bradley and Mr McDermott were killed on, was found not to have breached any regulations.

“The fact we were exonerated by WorkSafe is a reflection of the safety standards on Jaxon sites,” chief executive David Dodds said.

Axedale Holdings did not respond to a request for comment.

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