DEMOLITION at the new $700 million East End development site in Newcastle CBD came to a halt this week after the state's safety watchdog issued six improvement notices.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) organisers Mark Cross and Brendan Holl were driving past the Iris Capital development on the corner of Hunter and Wolfe streets on Tuesday when they saw demolition works that raised concern.
The pair entered the site and called SafeWork NSW to investigate.
A spokesman for SafeWork confirmed six improvement notices were issued to the demolition company to address falls, falling objects, access, amenities, emergency planning and equipment risks.
"SafeWork inspectors assessed the particular issues of concern, and exercised their compliance tools based on observed risk," he said.
"SafeWork inspectors are continuing to work with site management to ensure compliance."
The Newcastle Herald reported earlier this week that as Newcastle's billion-dollar commercial construction boom continues, there had been a sharp decline in the number of workplace safety inspections and penalties.
According to the data, SafeWork NSW inspections at Newcastle building sites dropped from 149 in 2018 to 115 last year.
Over the same time period, the number of prohibition notices issued to builders dropped from 15 to six and the number of improvement notices dropped from 25 to two.
There had been 51 inspections to the end of May this year, no improvement notices were issued and one prohibition notice.
Mr Holl said there were a host of problems at the East End site on Tuesday that saw SafeWork issue six improvement notices.
"We looked up at the site as we were driving by and saw things we just couldn't walk away from," he said.
"If we did and someone fell, we would share the blame for that.
"It's just not good enough. Workers should not be at risk when they go to work."
Novocastrian Demolition Services director Michael Curran said his company was "right in the middle of pulling down part of the building" when the union officials arrived.
Mr Curran said his company also called SafeWork in an effort to resolve the issue.
He said a SafeWork inspector had been on the site just days before to check scaffolding and there were no safety issues identified.
"We had an employee do the wrong thing, getting too close to an edge and that has been addressed in toolbox talks since," he said.
"SafeWork gave us the improvement notices and we acted on that straight away.
"We shut the site down and dealt with it immediately. We are not the bad guys here, we are respectful of our employees."
It's understood police were also called to the site after there was a disagreement between the union officials and staff about entering the site.
Mr Curran said access to the site was "constantly changing" due to the demolition.
"We're not a huge business, but we do try to maintain a level of safety in accordance with the regulations," he said.
"SafeWork could see that."
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