Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/512/3464
Construction bosses found guilty
Trainee scaffolder Steven Burke was 17 years old when he died working on unsafe scaffolding at Davyhulme waste-water treatment plant. Campaign group Families Against Corporate Killing have been fighting to bring those responsible to justice.
Hugh Caffrey, Manchester
A jury trial in Manchester found the site supervisor for Steven's employer guilty as charged, while the companies concerned (Mowlem, 3D Scaffolding and RAM Services) had already pleaded guilty.
Steven was in a four-man team completing the construction of birdcage scaffolding. A Health and Safety Executive expert says there were 2,500 too few metres of scaffolding. Platforms were not completed, ladders not secured and guardrails and toe-boards not used. The guilty will be sentenced in February, over four years after Steven's death.
By the time you've finished reading this paper, one or more young workers will have been badly injured at work in Britain. The grim toll of deaths and injury at work continues to rise, especially on construction sites. While health and safety is ignored by the employers, those standing up for basic legal rights are driven from their jobs.
Sacked electrician Tony Jones, TGWU-EPIU health and safety rep on the Manchester Royal Infirmary site, told the socialist: "It's a well-known fact why people don't speak out any more. If you speak out on health and safety on these sites, your feet don't touch the floor because you're gone.
"Due to the directors' duties bill never having passed in parliament, no-one can be jailed, which is disappointing. Maybe one day we'll have a government that will implement this kind of legislation. For the construction unions, we've got to go back to having roving safety reps to police these sites. In some countries this is the law, but the British government won't legislate for it."
Workers aged 16-24 are most at risk. Young workers are dying at work more than one a month, a sick figure rising now at the highest total for a decade.
Tony's sacked union rep Graham Bowker says: "These figures are appalling in this day and age. The induction you get on site is a sham. Health and safety used to be part of apprenticeships but now there's no health and safety for young people.
"It's all linked – there's no time for health and safety because of the way everyone's employed through the agencies and subcontractors. There's no money because the companies won't pay the rate for experienced workers on site."
In The Socialist 29 November 2007:
Environment and socialism
What we think
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Workplace news and analysis