Six construction site deaths in one week

Analysis by construction union UCATT has discovered that six construction workers were killed in the week that the Government announced it was slashing funding to the Health and Safety Executive by 35%.

With fears growing that the cuts will mean that frontline inspectors will be reduced and the recovery in construction resulting in inexperienced companies and workers entering the industry, deaths are likely to increase.

Alan Ritchie, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “Every one of these deaths was an individual tragedy. Each death underlines the dangers faced by construction workers. Sadly these risks will increase if the already low levels of inspections and enforcement activities are reduced.”

The sad statistics are as follows:

Saturday 16th October – a worker was electrocuted on a refurbishment job in Houslow, West London.

Monday 18th October – a 23 year old man, was killed in a trench collapse in Heaton, West Yorkshire.

Thursday 21st October – two workers were killed in Worlington, Suffolk when a wall on a barn conversion collapsed.

Friday 22nd October – a 65 year old man was killed in Bollington near Macclesfield, when a lorry load of bricks crushed him.

Friday 22nd October – a 55 year old man, died after falling from height in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

The recent deaths coincided with Conservative MP Christopher Chope tabling a Private Members Bill on the back of Lord Young’s report, which would loosen the rules about reporting accidents under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). Research by Liverpool University has found that just 32% of reportable injuries of employees and 12% of reportable injuries suffered by the self-employed were recorded under RIDDOR.

We believe that the construction industry is facing a very difficult time and that worker safety is in danger of being compromised and lives put at risk. It is clear that increased vigilance is necessary to ensure safety at a time when the government is attempting to roll back regulation and weaken the existing laws. A major problem is that accidents are not being reported. Weakening the rules will make the problem worse and will further increase the danger faced by workers…a point which unfortunately has not registered with Lord Young, who seems more interested in cutting corners in the name of cutting costs. 

Bonnar & Company specialises in construction industry accidents. We offer expert legal advice free of charge to direct employees, sub-contractors, the self-employed and apprentices on FREEPHONE 0800 163 978

The shape of things to come? – £1 fine for construction site death

Days after Lord Young’s report found that British industry is ‘burdened by unnecessary health and safety laws’, we are astounded and dismayed to learn that a Lancashire company has been fined just £1 over the death of a worker who fell 20ft when faulty scaffolding collapsed.

Peter Walton’s widow Christine said the punishment was ‘an appalling joke’. Mrs Walton is also unhappy that Howorth’s has been allowed to pay back the fine at £1,000 a month to ‘allow the company to exist’. After the sentencing she said:

“To say that I am appalled and shocked with the sentences is an understatement. Just £1 for my husband’s life is awful. Not only are the fines pitiful but it sends the completely wrong message out to the construction industry. In my opinion the system has shown that more worth has been put on preventing the firms going into administration than on my husband’s life, by imposing pathetic fines which in no way reflect the seriousness of the situation.”

The scaffolding at a development in Altham collapsed because a nut had not been tightened correctly. The court heard that other blunders included the scaffolding being erected on broken concrete, being too far from the building and not having a guard rail.

Gordon Birtwistle, Burnley MP, backed Mrs Walton and said: “The fine is an insult and makes a mockery of the prosecution. Mrs Walton has been left without a husband but this company has barely even been given a slap on the wrists.”

Glen  Mill was the principal contractor at the site and the scaffolding contractors were Howorth’s. Mr Walton, 55, of Thorton Cleveleys, had been employed by another sub-contractor, New Look. He suffered severe head injuries in the fall in May 2006 and died in the arms of his wife in hospital five weeks later. Mr Walton had been in a coma and never regained consciousness.

Last month Glen Mill managing director Peter Shearer appeared at court with Ian Howorth, boss of Howorth Scaffolding, to admit health and safety breaches. Both firms had earlier pleaded guilty before magistrates to a charge of exposing to risk persons not in their employment, in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive.

Judge Woolman said: “Glen Mill had been hit by the recession, had no real assets and had hardly traded since 2007. I am satisfied that the company does not have ready money to pay a large fine and that any fine will have to be paid out of future profits.”

The judge allowed Howorth’s to pay at £1,000 a month, to “allow the company to exist”.

After the case, HSE Inspector Ian Connor said: “This is an extremely sad case which once again shows how important it is to follow health and safety regulations. It’s vital that construction companies do more to prevent deaths and injuries in the future.”

This tragic case is a reminder that construction sites are inherently dangerous, not inherently safe and that constant care and vigilence is needed to safeguard lives.

Not only did Mr Walton die as a result of someone’s negligence, we are very concerned that the court was minded to ‘excuse’ the failures to ensure his safety at work on commercial grounds. It is extremely worrying that this attitude chimes perfectly with the approach taken by Lord Young in his report on the so-called ‘Compensation Culture’ in which he seeks to reduce industry’s ‘cost burden’ of compliance with UK health and safety legislation.

In our opinion this judgement could be the ‘thin edge of the wedge’ if courts rush to embrace the mantra that our hard-won health & safety legislation can be set aside to suit employers’ financial constraints. If this is indeed the shape of things to come, then all construction site workers in the UK are going to be placed at greater risk in the future as the industry struggles to deal with public sector budget cuts and the increasing pressure to get the job done.

When we factor in a 35% reduction in the HSE budget, which will  result in fewer site inspections and therefore greater risk of cost cutting by employers, the message being sent out here is that not only can the construction industry duck its responsibilities by pleading poverty, the chances of being caught breaching the regulations are set to reduce significantly.

Bonnar & Company specialises in personal injury claims on behalf of all construction workers. We help direct employees, sub-contractors, the self-employed and apprentices achieve justice and financial compensation. For a free, no obligation review of your claim please contact us today on 0800 163 978. 

Construction site worker killed in vehicle accident

A tragic incident yesterday reinforced the dangers inherent in construction site operations in Scotland.

A workman, understood to have been a subcontractor, was killed in a horrific accident when a dumper truck overturned at the site of a new £86 million bottling plant.

A police officer attempted to revive the workman after the accident at drink giant Diageo’s plant in Leven, Fife, but he was declared dead at the scene at 12:50pm yesterday

The Scottish Ambulance Service confirmed that an ambulance crew attended the scene following an emergency call at 12:50pm, but had been unable to do anything to help save the worker. The Health & Safety Executive is investigatng the incident.

Bonnar & Company specialises in construction industry accident and illness claims on behalf of direct and subcontract workers and the self-employed. If you or a member of your family needs to discuss a potential claim please call FREE on 0800 163 978 for a no obligation case review and independent legal advice.