05 February 2002
Workers’ Deaths Remembered On Waitangi Day Anniversary
A newly erected steel cross and memorial plaque now stand at the corner of Auckland’s Halsey and Fanshawe Streets - site of the tragic deaths of three workers on Waitiangi Day 1999.
Darren Skeen, Eddie Rehia and Ken Karu died of hydrogen sulphide poisoning two years ago tomorrow while flushing out sewer lines in Auckland’s central city.
“These workers died in the country’s worst industrial accident in 20 years,” said Council of Trade Unions president Ross Wilson.
“Recalling their unnecessary and untimely deaths, and faced with our already shocking workplace death and injury toll for this year, we must ensure our law is changed to prevent such deaths.”
Ross Wilson said that the deaths in Auckland’s sewer were entirely preventable and occurred as a result of unsafe work systems, including insufficient training.
“19 year old Darren Skeen had been in his job for two weeks,” he said.
“Darren’s mother is reported as saying that her son will have died for nothing unless workplace laws are strengthened.
“The total fines for the three companies responsible for these three workers’ safety were $34,000.”
Ross Wilson said new workplace health and safety laws would focus on ensuring systems of work were in place to prevent tragic accidents such as this, with increased fines for employers who failed to keep their workplaces safe.”