Construction workers know all too well the dangers posed by working alongside cranes: a threat that was visibly illustrated last Tuesday when the historic High Cross monument in Leicester’s Jubilee Square was “decapitated by a crane” (November 18, Leicester Mercury).
UCATT, the trade union for workers in the construction industry, has always made the promotion of health and safety one of their foremost concerns. Tragically, this is because, despite accounting for only 5% of all employees in the UK, deaths in the construction industry account for 30% of deaths (of which there were 35 over the past year).
Unfortunately the Government doesn’t think about worker safety in the same way as trade unionists, and are hell bent on destroying whatever remaining regulatory safeguards that exist.
A prime example of the Government’s hatred of safety regulations was provided in early 2013 when Tower Crane Register was abolished against the wishes of UCATT and their members.
The Crane Register had been introduced in 2010 to ensure that cranes underwent regular MOTs; this following on the heels of a series of fatal accidents involving cranes. But the Con-Dem government, keen to act in the interests of big building companies, decided that these MOTs were a barrier to economic growth. Hence the termination of the Crane Register.
Flouting of health and safety protocols in the construction industry is however all too common a problem. It wasn’t so long ago, in 2008, that a worker was killed in a “utterly preventable” crane accident here in Leicester (October 28, 2011, Mercury). The death resulted in a £180,000 fine, when the Leicester-based engineering firm Parker Plant Ltd admitted breaching the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.
So what can be done? Well locally, one way in which our Labour Council could show solidarity for workers is by ensuring that all of the building companies implicated in the ongoing construction industry blacklisting scandal are immediately barred from receiving contracts within our city’s boundaries.
Taking action on this issue alone is especially relevant to health and safety concerns, as the construction firms being investigated for blacklisting, specially acted to ensure that trade unionists who acted to raise health and safety concerns were barred from their building sites. A shocking and odious practice exposed in the just released book Blacklisted: The Secret War Between Big Business and Union Activists.
For more details about blacklisting see http://www.hazards.org/blacklistblog/
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on November 18.