Socialist Worker

Westfield and Olympics sites: rushing puts lives at risk

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2269

The new Westfield Stratford City shopping complex in east London opened on Tuesday with much fanfare. But the celebrations cannot cover the reality of the horrific accidents at the site during construction.

The shopping centre is part of a package of government-endorsed developments around the 2012 Olympic site.

A 21-year old shop fitter is believed to have fallen from an A-frame ladder on Monday of last week. He may have broken his back.

Another worker fell from a ladder after suffering an electric shock and electric burns on Friday of last week.

The Health and Safety Executive confirmed to Socialist Worker that it is making initial enquiries into both incidents, but that no decision has been made on whether a formal investigation will be launched.

Mick Holder, a construction hazards campaigner, told Socialist Worker that many workers on the site reported doing 15-hour shifts. “This is happening because people are being put under pressure to finish the job,” he said.

“Only the day before the first accident, cherry pickers and scissor lifts for work at heights were removed. So he was standing on a ladder.”

Westfield management said that some contractors were working extended hours “voluntarily” in order to meet the opening deadline.

Tony O’Brien, national secretary of the Construction Safety Campaign, told Socialist Worker, “There is simply no excuse for these long shifts.

“It is putting workers’ lives at risk. More people should have been employed if there was an issue with completion.

“Imagine balancing on the balls of your feet on a step while stretching upwards.

“He was tired and working over-long shifts. That isn’t safe.

“Falls from heights are a big issue in construction.

“And this government wants to make it easier for employers to not apply all the rules—but that’s what costs lives.

“There is always pressure to complete the job. The unspoken threat is if you don’t, you won’t get the next one.”

These accidents follow the death of Shaun Scurry from Kirkby in 2009. Shaun died at the Westfield site when he was reportedly trapped between a steel beam and an industrial lift.

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Tue 13 Sep 2011, 18:23 BST
Issue No. 2269
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