Bid to make building sites safer

INCREASED safety measures on building sites have been demanded by trade unions after accidents claimed the lives of three construction workers in one week, bringing the total number of construction deaths this year to 20.

The Building and Allied Trades Union (BATU) also called for a penalty points system to be introduced for firms that breach regulations in a bid to make the work place safer.

Leader of BATU Denis Farrell predicted there would be more deaths and serious injuries unless fundamental changes were made in the construction industry.

“Nobody likes to be proved right by such an event, but unless there are changes to the way people work, and unless the issues are tackled, these accidents will continue,” he said.

But the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) said yesterday that BATU’s proposal was unworkable.

“If there is a problem with the site we won’t hesitate to close it down, and that has happened 40 times already this year. We think a penalty points scheme might inhibit us in this work,” HSA senior construction inspector Jim Heffernan said.

In the latest building site tragedy, a man died and two others were seriously injured when a concrete staircase collapsed in an office block development in the Ringsend area of Dublin on Thursday night. The man died at the scene while another two men were taken to St Vincent’s Hospital.

Earlier this week, father of five Brian Colton, 34, from Glaslough Co Monaghan and Doanl Brady, 62, from Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan died when trenches collapsed on sites in Dublin and Dunleer, Co Louth.

A total of 20 construction workers have died after on-site accidents this year. The country’s biggest union, SIPTU support calls for better safety measures.

The union’s Dublin construction branch secretary, Eric Fleming said the death rate will remain high as long as the penalties for those brought before the court for negligence remained low.

“The penalties being imposed on those responsible for the deaths and terrible injuries caused to workers in the building industry are derisory and do not reflect the seriousness of the loss caused to building workers and their families,” he said.

Labour Enterprise spokesperson Brendan Howlin called for new health and safety legislation to be brought before the Dáil immediately to combat the problem.

“Without commenting on investigations underway, clearly the standards and enforcement that exist at present are inadequate.

“Building site incidents are responsible for the largest single number of work-related deaths each year,” he said.

Meanwhile, Health and Safety experts are investigating an explosion that rocked a fast food restaurant in Ballina, Co Mayo, injuring three people. One person is still being treated at University College Hospital, Galway after a gas blast at Tasty Mac’s diner in Teeling Street on Thursday.

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