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CONSTRUCTION UNION EXPRESS FIT-OUT SAFETY CONCERNS

UCATT highlight implication of recent Westfield Centre incidents

The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) has called for far higher levels of safety awareness during the final stages of work on major retail projects. The call follows two recent accidents at the Stratford City Shopping Complex which opened on Tuesday September 13 2011.

During the week prior to opening two serious accidents are reported to have occurred on the project. On Monday 5th September a workman fell from a ladder, sustaining back injuries and in a second accident on Friday 9th September a worker suffered severe burns after receiving an electric shock. In the final stages of the project there have been an strong 8,000 workforce on the site and the majority were shop fitters.

UCATT point out that despite these recent accidents and a fatality in late 2009 the project has a generally good safety record having recently passed a million man-hours without a reportable accident, the fourth time it has achieved this landmark.

Jerry Swain, Regional Secretary of UCATT’s London and South East Region, said:

“The two recent accidents at the Westfield site are of extreme concern. UCATT has been working diligently around the clock in a proactive manner in order to prevent accidents from occurring.

These accidents underline just how dangerous the industry is, particularly when workers are required to work long hours in a rush to finish a project. The industry needs to review how safety is maintained in the final stages of projects so that accident risks are significantly reduced.”

In February 2011 HSE wrote to the developer highlighing the key risks to be managed during the fit-out phase and asking that the letter be distributed to relevant organisations on site.

London Mayor narrowly escapes injury

During the opening of Westfield Centre a ceiling tile fell 30ft landing near London mayor Boris Johnson. Nobody was hurt and Johnson dismissed the incident and went on to praise the construction team on the site.

Christian Radnedge, a reporter from Soccer and Olympic News, was standing near Mr Johnson when the ceiling panel fell said:

“Boris was speaking to broadcast people at the time and I was there. All of a sudden the panel just came crashing down with a loud bang about 10 metres from Boris. He looked confused and shocked, everyone was shocked. The people sitting nearby on the tables were petrified.”

Tony O’Brien, national secretary of the Construction Safety Campaign, said:

“We see little to celebrate in the opening of Westfield today. The price workers pay in building these projects is often their health, disability, or even death. We have always said this is unacceptable, and it is shameful these people are not being remembered today.”

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