Really, would you kill a friend?

An Australian construction firm has been fined after a teenage worker died working on a government-backed home insulation scheme. Arrow Property Maintenance Pty Ltd was fined $135,000 (£82,200) on charges relating to the death of 16-year-old insulation installer Reuben Barnes.

Unions warned last year that the energy efficiency scheme, part of a government stimulus package and flagged up as a “green” jobs initiative, was being compromised by the use of contractors without the skills, training or experience to undertake the work in a safe manner.

Reuben Barnes was electrocuted while installing fibreglass insulation in the ceiling of a private home in November last year. During the hearing directors of the company said they considered the teenager “a friend”.

Queensland Council of Unions Rockhampton secretary Craig Allen said he thought the comments from Chris and Richard Jackson in court were “insensitive”. He said if they were friends they would not have allowed Rueben to work without training, at heights, in a house that was electrified and in a situation that was unsafe.

Barnes was one of four people who died during the rollout of the government’s controversial home insulation programme, which was also blamed for nearly 100 house fires.

The government introduced new safety measures after unions said the scheme should be halted until improvements were made.

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