The coroner’s inquest into the deaths of three insulation installers working under the Commonwealth Home Insulation Program is now complete.
Expressing sympathy for the families of the three men, who died while installing insulation under the program, Resources and Energy Minister Gary Gray said that the Commonwealth will carefully consider the recommendations of the Queensland coroner, Michael Barnes.
The Commonwealth home insulation scheme was part of the government's fiscal stimulus program in the wake of the global financial crisis.
The three installers, Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes and Mitchell Sweeney died in separate accidents.
In the latest of a series of reports into the Home Insulation Program, Mr Barnes found its administration led to ‘an increased risk of harm’, which was partly attributed to the speed of the rollout. He noted that state and territory laws had failed to adequately protect workers.
According to Mr Gray, the coroner had accepted that the Commonwealth had already acted on the earlier reports into the program, including extensive examinations by former senior public servant Allan Hawke and the Australian National Audit Office.
But he said any workplace death was a tragedy and that the Commonwealth would carefully examine the coroner's observations.
In part, the report recommended that the Queensland Government's Office of Fair and Safe Work highlight the dangers of electrical safety in roof cavities through a public awareness campaign.
The coroner also recommended that the Queensland government progress a proposal for the extension of mandatory installation of safety switches. The coroner did, however, criticise the Commonwealth for relying on administrative arrangements, rather than specific legislation, to support the program.
Mr Gray said it was not uncommon to rely on state and territory legislation where the Commonwealth may not have constitutional power to legislate to cover an entire industry. He explained that in this case, the Commonwealth had limited powers to legislate for specific industry safety requirements and relied on state safety legislation.
The government worked closely with industry and state and territory workplace safety authorities to ensure that the Home Insulation Program exceeded minimum safety requirements in each state. For the first time a national approach to insulation material and installation was adopted by the industry.