Saturday, January 06, 2007

Construction Safety Slammed In Liverpool

Outside McDonald’s on Lord Street, the Amicus union launched a campaign against poor safety standards in the construction industry yesterday afternoon. As if to prove their point, Morgan Utilities Ltd were being fined £11,000 for a 2005 incident just down the road.

Amicus chose Liverpool to host the campaign unveiling, because the city centre in particular is currently is the middle of the ‘Big Dig’, where the council is rushing through work before the Capital of Culture celebrations begin in less than a year. Some of the work has clearly needing doing for some time, but other construction jobs are aimed at creating a haven for the corporate carpetbaggers who will descend on the city in 2008 and leave it in 2009.

Amicus’ Construction Officer Steve Benson, said:

“For too long employers in the construction industry have been undermining or at worst ignoring existing national agreements for the protection of construction workers. This demonstration is the beginning of our campaign to ensure that all employers honour their commitment and adhere to the national agreements.

“With big investment and building projects in Merseyside we want to encourage more people to join Amicus and get involved in taking the construction industry forward.”

Meanwhile, in Liverpool Magistrates’ Court, Morgan Utilities Ltd were losing their case against the Health and Safety Executive, after one of their extremely rare inspections spotted two employees working in an “unsupported excavation” at the junction of Church Street and Whitechapel in October 2005. The hole was around six metres long, two metres deep, and just under a metre wide.

The workers were installing a new section of 225mm diameter fresh water main in the trench, which had no shoring to its almost vertical sides. Morgan Utilities Ltd and one of its managers, Gordon Holt, of Rochdale, each pleaded guilty to criminal charges brought by the HSE.

HSE inspector Neil Jamieson said: "There was a high risk of collapse and consequent injury given that spoil was stored immediately adjacent to the excavation sides, an excavator was also operating in close proximity to the edge, and the risks were further accentuated from vibration emanating from the nearby Liverpool underground railway system.

"Mr Holt, who was managing the work, was aware it was being undertaken in the manner described.

"During the last five years HSE had made two visits to sites where Morgan Utilities was carrying out excavation work, which caused concern as people were working in deep, unsupported excavations."

Workers cannot rely on inspections to point out safety issues, they must organise against the capitalist system itself, which rewards businesses for cutting corners. As Merseyside construction work intensifies over the next twelve months there is a great danger that serious injuries or even fatalities will take place.
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