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INACTION OVER SITE DEATHS COMES UNDER FIRE

Construction union concerned over ‘shameful’ failure to prosecute 

Construction union UCATT are calling for urgent action to be taken to ensure that “companies responsible for the death of a construction worker are brought to justice”.

The trades union has reported on information received from HSE through a Freedom of Information request which revealed:

  • Fatalities – 332 fatal accidents involving construction workers between 2004/5 and 2008/9; and
  • Prosecutions – 152 (46%) of these deaths resulted in prosecution.

UCATT explain that figures for more recent recording years was not requested because it typically takes between three and four years between the death and conclusion of a prosecution.

Steve Murphy, General Secretary of construction union UCATT, said:

“These are truly shocking figures. It is bad enough that families have lost a loved one but the fact in the majority of cases no prosecution has ever been brought is shameful.”

With regard to construction deaths we were already aware that it was a case of justice delayed we can now see in the majority of cases it is in fact justice denied. Families who have lost a loved one deserve answers about why there are so few prosecutions.”

UCATT argue that most construction fatalities are preventable and that earlier research by the HSE concluded that in 70 per cent of cases ‘management failures’ caused or contributed to the death.

‘Meaningless’ to set a quota for % of prosecutions

The Code for Crown Prosecutors and HSE’s published Enforcement Policy set out the circumstances when a prosecution should and should not be brought.

The Code requires that two test are met before prosecution can take place:

  1. Evidential: sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction; and
  2. Public Interest: public interest factors tending against prosecution outweigh those tending in favour.

An HSE spokesman said:

“Every construction death is thoroughly investigated by HSE. If there is sufficient evidence to prosecute and it is in the public interest, we always do.

It’s meaningless to set a quota for the percentage of prosecutions, and there are some very good reasons why it isn’t possible to bring a case to court – for example, if there is a lack of evidence or in the deaths of people who are genuinely self-employed.”

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