The CFMEU has hit out at an "obscene and tokenistic" fine handed to engineering contractor John Holland over the death of a worker at Brisbane's Airport Link project.

Recently the Federal Court ordered for John Holland to pay $170,000 over the October 2011 death of mechanical engineer Sam Beveridge, who was crushed when a smoke duct formwork collapsed on him.

National CFMEU construction secretary Dave Noonan said it equated to “a slap on the wrist”.

“Is the community supposed to accept that a life is worth $170,000?” he said.

In an agreed statement of facts, John Holland admitted it failed to provide training on risk or control measures for the work, or a safe system of work for the cutting of the formwork.

Chief executive of the safety regulator Comcare, Jennifer Taylor, said the penalty sent a strong message that employers needed to carry out comprehensive assessments of all work health and safety risks.

But Mr Noonan accused John Holland of doing a “backroom deal” with Comcare and said the “paltry” fine was not an effective deterrent.

He claimed the union had been pushing the company to act on safety breaches throughout the project but it was met with resistance.

“We called for an investigation into their suitability to hold a Comcare licence and it fell on deaf ears,” Mr Noonan said.