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Unions and workers allege 'cover-up' of worksite incidents at Barangaroo -

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ELIZABETH JACKSON: A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the highly publicised Barangaroo worksite on Sydney's CBD waterfront has one of the highest rates of injuries, hazards and near-misses of any worksite in the state.

One hundred and twenty-three incidents were reported between 2014 and June this year, a rate approximately five times that of any other major Sydney project, like the Darling Harbour precinct and the Sydney Metro.

The building company Lendlease says it takes safety seriously, but unions say workers are afraid to report accidents.

Tom Joyner reports.

(Sound of machinery operating at worksite)

TOM JOYNER: After millions of dollars and years of construction along one of the last stretches of undeveloped land on the Sydney Harbour foreshore, the stakes for the Barangaroo development are high.

But part of the cost of the enormous project appears to be the safety of the workers, as documents show it has one of the highest rates of worksite incidents in the state.

An electrician formerly employed on the Barangaroo site, Anthony, says not all incidents are being reported.

ANTHONY: Oh, they're scared. Like, as soon as there's an injury on site and if you go to report it or go to the first aid and they send you away to the medical, you're scared what's going to happen because they just try to cover this stuff up.

TOM JOYNER: Data obtained by the ABC under Freedom of Information legislation show workplace incidents have been reported at a level much higher than other building sites of a similar size.

One hundred and twenty-three incidents were reported between 2014 and June this year, compared to just 24 at the Darling Harbour precinct and 25 on the Sydney Metro rail project over the same period.

The accidents involved fires ignited on the site, workers exposed to live electricity, explosions and crushed body parts.

In one incident, timber holding together a crane's load fell 16 floors to land near some construction workers on the deck below.

Anthony says the problem isn't isolated to Barangaroo.

ANTHONY: It's happening on various other sites: you know, people falling from a couple of levels; and the boss telling him to take a week off, just so they don't have to go through the whole reporting the incident and the loss of time injury.

TOM JOYNER: Under New South Wales law, workplace accidents or hazards must be reported directly to the state's construction regulator, SafeWork NSW.

But according to Stewart Edward from the Electrical Trades Union, that's not always happening.

STEWART EDWARD: Well, I think there's a massive under-reporting of notifiable incidents. You may come across maybe half a dozen, maybe a dozen incidents which should have been reported, which have never been reported at all.

TOM JOYNER: He says under-reporting has become engrained in worksite culture.

STEWART EDWARD: A culture of not notifying WorkCover under the current legislation to hide those figures.

TOM JOYNER: The Barangaroo development has faced criticism from community groups and advocates, who say the project serves private interests with little public benefit.

AM asked the site's principal contractor, Lendlease, for its response to the high rate of incidents, as well as to claims further workplace accidents are being under-reported.

A company spokeswoman said in a statement:

STATEMENT FROM LENDLEASE (voiceover): Safety is Lendlease's number one priority and we are committed to providing safe conditions for all people in our workplaces. We work with all parties, including our clients, unions, regulators and workers, on safety matters.

TOM JOYNER: Work at the Barangaroo site continues, with stage one of the project to be completed later this year.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Tom Joyner with that report.