It is relatively easy to manage a workplace in an urban environment. The buildings stay in one place, the neighbours are almost always the same and the weather bureau provides plenty of warnings. But in isolated areas, particularly in Australia, it seems the work environment is often more exposed. Certainly this was the case in mid-March 2007 when Cyclone George hit a railway construction camp killing several workers and injuring twenty.
The camp accommodation of demountable units, called dongas, were supposedly cyclone-proof. At the time, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union said that administrative staff were evacuated but construction workers were directed to the dongas.
The owner of the worksite, Fortescue Metals Groups said on 11 December 2008 that it will fight 40 charges brought by Worksafe WA under the West Australian Occupational Health and Safety Act.
According to one media report:
“The charges include the failure to provide a safe work environment, failure to design and construct temporary accommodation and other buildings capable of withstanding a cyclone and failure to properly instruct and train workers.”
The installer of the demountable buildings, Sunbrood, had all charges dismissed.
The court case will continue in Western Australia in February and March next year.