Woman Took Harness off Before Fatal 13 Floor Fall

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Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
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A 27-year-old German woman who fell 13 floors to her death on a Perth construction site on Monday had taken her safety harness off only moments before.

Gerry Hanssen, managing director of contractor Hanssen, said Marianka Heumann was ready to end her shift putting silicone in a lift shaft and had taken her safety harness off.

“She must have been ready to knock off but doubled back to fix a mistake,” he told ABC radio.

“She took the harness off and must have looked back and she left a small section 20cm out or something and she obviously thought ‘I better fix that before I go’.”

The fall from the high rise apartment complex would have been about 60 metres and the woman was pronounced dead at Royal Perth Hospital.

She had a working holiday visa and was working as an unskilled labourer.

Her family are travelling to Perth.

Her death has sparked debate about whether it is too easy for overseas backpackers to get work on Australian building sites.

A ‘White Card’ qualification to work on a building site can be obtained by registering online for $39, where previously workers had to physically attend one-day courses.

There are claims of forms being filled in fraudulently by workers who have obtained them without completing training.

Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union WA secretary Mick Buchan said most unskilled workers at the site were from overseas and he accused property developers Finbar of having a history of exploiting them as cheap labour.

Master Builders Australia executive director Mike McLean said employers had a duty of care to workers and were supposed to provide further specialist training at building sites on top of the white cards.

He said whenever someone died, that process had clearly broken down.

Mr McLean also said that with a downturn in the building industry, there was a surplus of workers but “some builders have a reliance on backpackers for whatever reason”.

Finbar said in a statement that it was in consultation with Hanssen to ensure full support was given to the woman’s family as well as staff affected by the tragedy.

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