Home insulation scheme Royal Commission report: time to compensate families for government failings

1 September 2014
The Australian Government is ultimately liable for the deaths of four young workers who died installing insulation and should compensate relatives of those who died, says law firm Maurice Blackburn.

Responding to the Report on the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program (HIP), Maurice Blackburn principal Peter Koutsoukis said:

“The Sweeney family welcome the fact that the Royal Commission has acknowledged their profound loss and grief. They have lost their son, brother and a dear friend.

“This Royal Commission report outlines a range of failings by the Australian Government who – in its haste to create jobs – sacrificed safety with tragic consequences.

“The government created the market that allowed this ‘frenetic’ program to employ inexperienced workers, who were at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.”

As the report points out, roof cavities are dangerous places, and the product – reflective foil laminate (RFL) – should not have been used. The government knew of the danger of foil and metal staples as three similar deaths had occurred in New Zealand before the start of this program.

The report says: “The reality is that the Australian Government conceived of, devised, designed and implemented a program that enabled very large numbers of inexperienced workers – often engaged by unscrupulous and avaricious employers or head contractors, who were themselves inexperienced in insulation installation – to undertake potentially dangerous work. It should have done more to protect them.”

Maurice Blackburn shares the report’s view that “each death would, and should, not have occurred had the HIP been properly designed and implemented. The decision to permit the use of reflective foil sheeting as ceiling insulation was … fundamentally flawed. It directly contributed to the death of …Mitchell Sweeney.”

The family will take some time to digest the findings in full over the coming days and request that the media respect their privacy.  

Practice Areas: