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London building deaths raise safety concerns

In the week in which the HSE released its annual injury and ill-health statistics, two fatal incidents on separate construction sites in London have again cast the spotlight on safety in the construction industry.

On Monday (29 October), carpenter Justinas Kopickas died at property developer St James’ Langham Square site in Upper Richmond Road, Putney. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the man was leaning against a metal barrier on the sixth floor of the development when he fell, colliding with two builders on the way.

Mr Kopickas was pronounced dead at the scene. One of the other builders was badly injured but not critically, while the other man escaped with minor injuries, according to a spokesperson from the Metropolitan Police. The HSE is now leading the investigation into how the incident happened.

In a separate incident on the same day, a man died after apparently being crushed at a demolition site on Tottenham High Road. The 25-year-old victim suffered multiple injuries and died in hospital two days later. The Police are still leading the investigation, although the HSE has begun initial inquiries.

Tony O’Brien, national secretary of the Construction Safety Campaign, warned that the two incidents are a sign of more to come. Lambasting the Government for deregulating health and safety and dressing up cost-cutting measures as beneficial to society, O’Brien insisted: “We are going to see a reversal in the reduction in construction deaths over the next few years.”

The incidents occurred just days before the HSE issued its latest injury and ill-health statistics. The construction industry sector recorded 2230 major injuries in 2011/12, down from 2307 in 2010/11. The sector also accounted for 5391 over-three-day injuries, up from 4813 in 2010/11, but still down on the five-year average. All non-fatal injuries saw a 7-per-cent cent increase from 7120 in 2010/11 to 7621 in 2011/12.

In response to the figures, the HSE’s chief inspector of construction, Philip White, said: “Year after year, construction continues to be one of the most dangerous sectors in British industry. Though the numbers are down in the long term, thousands of workers are being seriously injured, or made unwell by their work.

“We all need to re-focus our efforts and take on the responsibility to ensure the serious risks that continue to cause death and serious injury are sensibly managed. Many of these incidents are entirely preventable.”

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