Socialist Worker

Safety must come first in construction

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2160

A hard-hitting report on deaths in construction is being used by the government to give the appearance that it is doing something about safety on sites.

The One Death Too Many report by Rita Donaghy, the former head of the Acas conciliation service, calls for the appointment of a full-time minister of construction and measures to make it easier to prosecute directors.

It also calls for an extension of gangmasters’ legislation to the construction industry. But the report was thrown into confusion when the government stopped its publication hours before its official release.

But then Yvette Cooper, the work and pensions secretary, personally released the report.

The report reads, “As with most advances in society there comes a time when good practice has to become a legal requirement.

“The time is right to introduce a clearer sign that society wishes to prevent fatalities and demands a higher standard of behaviour from those in the construction industry, who do not at present follow good practice.”


On average, one construction worker has died each week this year. The figure is down on last year but this is explained by a severe drop-off in construction as the housing market has collapsed.

Construction still accounts for more deaths at work than any other sector—more than 2,500 building workers have died in the past 25 years.

The report points out, “The positive role that trade unions can play in health and safety is not fully appreciated by the construction industry.”

Indeed, the companies at the heart of the industry were behind a blacklist that was focused on trade unionists in general and health and safety reps in particular. This gives little confidence that they will change their ways.

The government is to consider a response to the report later in the year. In the meantime, the carnage on building sites continues.

Crane falls

A crane driver has been left fighting for his life after his 200 foot crane crashed into an apartment block in Liverpool two weeks ago. Its five-tonne counterweight fell through six occupied floors and into the building’s sub-basement.

The driver was thrown from his cab and landed on the roof. He suffered head, chest and leg injuries.

Bovis ban semi-automatic hitches

Bovis Lend Lease is the latest company to ban all semi-automatic and single pin fully-automatic excavator quick hitches.

The bucket coming off from a semi-automatic hitch on excavators has killed at least ten construction workers in Britain in recent years.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and manufacturers have agreed that no more semi-automatic hitches will be made. But the HSE has still not banned their use on sites.

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Article information

Tue 14 Jul 2009, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2160
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