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Saturday 29th
posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

Three Crossrail contractors have been fined just £300,000 for the death of a man in an avoidable disaster. Shocked critics say it barely touches the sides

THE family of a man killed on the flagship Crossrail project expressed their anguish yesterday as construction giants Bam, Ferrovial and Kier were fined £1 million for health and safety offences.

Rene Tkacik was killed in March 2014 after a ton of wet concrete fell from the Crossrail tunnel at the Fisher Street site of the London construction project.

The family of Mr Tkacik only found out about yesterday’s court case by chance when their lawyer Helen Clifford contacted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for an update on the case earlier this week.

In a statement read out to the court, Mr Tkakic’s mother Marta told how receiving the phone call about her son’s death “was the most devastating news in my life. My heart was literally ripped out.”

The BFK consortium — comprising of Bam, Ferrovial and Kier — pleaded guilty to health and safety offences at Southwark Crown Court. They were fined just £300,000 for the death of Mr Tkacik.

The HSE had planned to prosecute the three companies individually, however lawyers for the Crossrail contractors struck a deal to plead guilty if the BFK consortium was charged instead.

The move meant that the blacklisting construction giants would escape convictions which would have potentially affected their ability to win lucrative public-sector contracts

The court fined BFK a total of £1 million, including other incidents on the Crossrail project causing serious injury to workers.

Blacklisted construction worker Keith Dobie, who was at Southwark Crown Court, expressed disappointment at the fine he called “£300,000 for a man’s life.”

He said: “That will cost the three multinationals £100,000 each — which is probably less that the bonuses that their senior managers will receive on the project.

“To add insult to injury, the companies even had the cheek to ask for time to pay the fine. It’s time to put people before profit.”

And Unite union national officer Jerry Swain said: “This is firstly a human tragedy where a husband went to work and didn’t return home again. The tragedy is even greater as we know his death was wholly avoidable.

“There are clear and straightforward ways of creating a safe way of working when applying concrete to the roof of a tunnel which would have ensured that no-one could have inadvertently entered the danger area.

“Following the tragedy the companies responsible should have swiftly accepted their guilt rather than prolong the torment faced by the victim’s family.

“The industry needs to learn the lessons from this tragedy, especially on major infrastructure projects.”

The Crossrail project has been beset with controversy and has been subject of industrial action over pay and conditions on at a number of sites across the capital.

Construction union Ucatt — now part of Unite — called for an investigation and asked London Mayor Sadiq Khan to intervene last year following claims of bullying and intimidation of workers at various Crossrail sites.

The union accused Crossrail bosses of engaging in “dirty tricks” after refusing “normal access to the workforce” and for filming union members engaging in lawful protests.

At Crossrail’s Plumstead depot it was alleged that a scab lorry driver threatened to run over workers.

Blacklist Support Group spokesman Lee Fowler said: “Rene’s death is a tragedy but it was totally avoidable if BFK had put proper safety measures in place.

“But instead, the Health & Safety at Work Act was breached and at the same time the companies were victimising Frank Morris after he raised concerns about safety on the project.

“Blacklisting may have been a contributory factor not just in Rene’s death but a series of other near fatal accidents on Crossrail.”