Union calls for John Holland safety probe

A union wants a national investigation into safety at all John Holland construction sites after allegations about one of its projects in Brisbane.

National safety watchdog Comcare is investigating Holland's Leighton Holdings subsidiary after revelations the company was warned about safety concerns at Brisbane's Airport Link tunnel 18 months before a worker died on site in 2011.

The Australian reports that John Holland executive Stephen Sasse wrote a memo to management saying that the $4.8 billion project "was operating in contempt of all our OHS governance systems".

"In my seven years with John Holland, I have never seen any project or management team that was so cavalier about the company's OHS system, principles and values, and I have grave doubts about the management's team's capability in safety," Mr Sasse said in the memo.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) wants Comcare's investigation to go further and probe safety at every John Holland site in Australia. The union also wants checks on the company's suitability to hold a Comcare licence.

CFMEU construction secretary Dave Noonan said: "It's a disgrace that senior management of a company like Holland can behave in this way."

John Holland told AAP that management had acted immediately after the memo was sent and expressed condolences over the death of Sam Beveridge in 2011.

"John Holland deeply regrets the tragedy of Mr Beveridge's fatal injury," a John Holland spokesman said.

"As a Comcare investigation is underway into that matter, John Holland cannot comment further."

However, the watchdog has reportedly said it would launch legal action in the Federal Court against the construction company over Mr Beveridge's death.

Mr Noonan also warned that Queensland government plans to tighten union entry laws would make it harder for union officials to enter work sites and put more workers at risk.

But the state government said that union delegates were still allowed to visit any site if they gave 24 hours notice and that any worker could report safety concerns to Work Place Health and Safety Queensland.

Comcare said all work health and safety concerns over the Brisbane Airport Link that were brought to its attention were investigated. "Comcare continues to ensure that work health and safety is the priority at all John Holland projects across Australia," a spokeswoman said.

"John Holland's self-insurance license has been closely supervised by the federal Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (SRCC) since it was granted a license in 2007."