Barangaroo death: Union claims it was blocked from inspecting work site

ABC: The Maritime Union of Australia says it was recently prevented from conducting a safety inspection at the construction site at Sydney's Barangaroo where a 32-year-old worker was killed yesterday afternoon.

The Maritime Union of Australia says it was recently prevented from conducting a safety inspection at the construction site at Sydney's Barangaroo where a 32-year-old worker was killed yesterday afternoon.

Tim Macpherson was crushed to death when a large metal beam fell on top of him at the Barangaroo Ferry Hub worksite.

Emergency services were called to a barge — near one of the city's main areas of water traffic — about 4:40pm.

Mr Macpherson left behind a young family.

MUA spokesman Paul Keating said he attempted to inspect the site when his union was notified in November 2016 about concerns that the barge being used on the site did not comply with maritime standards.

"At the time I came down with another official to speak with the workers to have a look at the barge to assess if it was up to maritime standard and to make sure that the operation was safe," he said.

"I was met with opposition from the contractor, McConnell Dowell, in accessing the site, after which I contacted Roads and Maritime Services to find out whether the vessel was up to standard."

"These companies refuse our right on entry even when we raise these issues of safety with them," he said.

In a statement, contractor McConnell Dowell's Australian managing director, Jim Frith, said the company's thoughts were with the man's family.

"We are providing his employer with all the assistance they need to support his family, and all affected staff are being offered support and counselling,'' the statement said.

"The full circumstances are unknown at this time and McConnell Dowell will continue to work with the authorities as they investigate the incident."

SafeWork New South Wales inspectors have spent the night at the barge in Darling Harbour to continue investigations.

Work was expected to remain suspended today at the site.

Workplace deaths 'unacceptably high'

A bunch of flowers lean against a fence, with a crane barge visible behind.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's (CFMEU) state secretary Brian Parker said there had been an unacceptable spike in deaths at building sites in NSW, and across Australia.

"It's running at over one a week at this point in time," he said.

Mr Parker claimed that the Federal Government's construction watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), was making work sites more dangerous by preventing union organisers from entering them.

"We can make it safer by not having legislation like the ABCC that restricts union and union officials from entering the workplace," he said.

"Where we have got good access to building sites, the statistics show there is a drop in the amount of serious incidents and serious accidents and also deaths in the industry."

However, Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash said the CFMEU was dishonest to claim any link between the ABCC and yesterday's workplace death.

"The ABCC is not a safety regulator and it is highly dishonest for the CFMEU to claim that it is in any way related to this matter," she said in a statement.

"It is utterly disgraceful that any union would seek to politicise a workplace death, particularly given the incident occurred less than 24 hours ago."

SafeWork NSW statistics showed that 60 people died at workplaces during 2015/2016, and 12 of those were in the state's central west.

SafeWork agreed the number of deaths was "unacceptably high" and this week launched a $3 million campaign in response to the statistics.