ETU disappointed with Supreme Court decision on solar safety regs

This decision is a kick in the guts for safety and jobs but we won’t give up   

The Electrical Trades Union Qld NT branch is preparing to fight the Supreme Court decision to invalidate recently implemented improvements to solar safety regulations for plants over 100 KW, labeling the decision as disappointing.

ETU State Secretary Peter Ong said while the Union was disappointed by the decision it was proud that it had raised awareness around the issues associated with exploitation and unsafe practices on the expanding solar farm industry.

“What we have witnessed by this decision is multi-national companies who have a history of exploitation and a flagrant disregard for safety aided and abetted by Master Electricians Australia and the Clean Energy Council exploiting a loophole in the Electrical Safety Act to win a decision that puts developer profit before the safety of workers. However, the industry is on notice, they will be held accountable, we will never take a backward step on safety,” he said.

Mr. Ong signaled the Union’s intention to continue the fight for proper safety regimes to protect workers and the public echoing the reservations outlined by Queensland Commissioner for Electrical Safety Greg Skyring who articulated ongoing concerns about electrical shock and fire risks associated with the installation of solar panels.

“The regulation changes were only ever intended to be an interim measure until the Electrical Safety Act can be amended to properly define what is electrical work. The regs were a way of stopping the use of unqualified and unskilled backpackers who were performing unsafe electrical work. The case for amending the ESA will continue, we will never shy away from pushing safety and peace of mind for workers and communities,” Mr. Ong said.

“As a union we have worked tirelessly to expose the widespread unsafe practices on solar farms, while this decision is a kick in the guts for safety and for quality regional jobs, it will not end the battle,” Ong said.

“The ETU will continue working with the Electrical Safety Office, the state Government and other stakeholders to ensure we have the very best safety regimes, while also providing good quality jobs and apprenticeships for regional Queenslanders. We will not let this ill-conceived, profit driven decision detract us from ensuring that the solar farm sector is a safe environment for workers and the community and does not become another pink batts type debacle.” Ong said.