Young employee dies in tragic workplace accident

by HCA15 Mar 2017
A young employee has been killed on a residential building site in the town of Yarloop, 130 kilometres south of Perth.

Mitchel Birkin was working on a crane crew constructing a pre-fabricated home for firm Gran Designs WA.

The 19-year-old’s job was to choose and inspect lifting gear and guide crane drivers as they moved loads.

Authorities believe a freak wind gust caused the six-metre high, 800 kilogram prefabricated wall to come down on Birkin.

HC contacted Gran Designs WA for comment and a spokesperson said the incident is currently being investigated.

“Tragically, a young man lost his life today. Worksafe and the Police are currently investigating the matter and we are fully cooperating with their enquiries,” said the spokesperson.

“I’m not in a position to say anything more at this time. At the moment, our thoughts are with the young man, his family and friends.”

WA secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union Mick Buchan said there was a fatality in the industry every 10 weeks in WA.

"We've had a shocking past 12 months where there has been a fatal accident or serious accident every 10 weeks," he said.

"The outgoing government decimated WorkSafe funding, making it even more dangerous.

 "We want to see WorkSafe totally restructured from the ground up, to be a proactive agency."

The man's death is the second fatality involving a teenaged construction worker in Western Australia so far this year.

Wesley Ballantine, 17, died after falling 12 metres while helping install a glass ceiling at Perth's old post office building in Perth's central business district on January 5.

Birkin’s death also comes less than two weeks after another construction worker was killed at Barangaroo in Sydney’s CBD.

The 32-year-old man has died after a heavy metal beam fell on his torso and crushed him while he was working on a barge at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

The Maritime Union of Australia spokesman Paul Keating said he attempted to inspect the site in November 2016. At the time, he was notified about concerns that the barge being used did not comply with maritime standards.

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