Unions hit out at health and safety cuts as deaths add to shocking rise in annual totals
UNIONS hit out at Tory cuts which have decimated safety inspections across Britain yesterday after a tragic industrial accident left five workers dead.
Emergency services were called to a Hawkeswood scrap metal plant in Birmingham yesterday morning after a massive concrete wall collapsed.
Five Spanish nationals working at the site were crushed to death — one of the highest death tolls in a British industrial accident in recent years.
The men were reportedly being paid the minimum wage and had been employed via a recruitment agency.
Three have been named locally as Alimamo Jammeh, Bangaly Dukureh and 42-year-old Saibo Saillah.
All three were married with young families and Mr Saillah had three-year-old twins.
A sixth man was partially trapped under the falling concrete, but managed to free himself and was taken to hospital with serious leg injuries.
It comes after four demolition workers were killed by a wall collapse at Didcot power station earlier this year.
Builders’ union Ucatt acting general secretary Brian Rye said cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had led to a reduction in the number of safety inspections on dangerous sites.
“This is a tragic accident and our first thoughts must be with the family of the loved ones who have died in such tragic circumstances,” he said.
“Information on how and why this accident occurred is currently very limited. However this tragedy underlines that in dangerous industries it is imperative that HSE plays an active and high-profile role in ensuring safety is maintained.”
Hawkeswood had previously been forced to pay out £60,000 by HSE in 2012 over an incident at the vast recycling site in Nechells, a heavily industrialised part of Birmingham, where a lack of guarding led to a man’s arm being crushed.
And in February over 100 firefighters were called to the same site to tackle a massive fire on a 700-ton heap of scrap metal.
West Midlands Police detective superintendent Mark Payne said his force would be investigating whether “any issues of negligence or malpractice” may have contributed to the collapse, in a joint investigation with the HSE.
“We’re simply trying to recover the bodies of the men and do it in a way which will help understand exactly how that wall came to fall down,” he said.
“It’s a wall constructed of blocks that weigh about 1.5 tons each — concrete blocks. That wall was supporting a body of scrap metal.
“It appears that that wall has collapsed on top of the men and then the scrap metal behind the wall has fallen on top.”
Manka Sawo, one of dozens of workers employed on the site, said he had been alerted to the collapse when the injured man phoned him from hospital.
“I knew one of the men very closely,” he said. “Yesterday we celebrated Eid together. It’s very, very sad.”
Service chiefs hope the bodies of the deceased men will be recovered overnight.
The tragedy came after Ucatt accused HSE of “burying bad news” by releasing deaths at work figures on the day of the Chilcott report.
There were 43 construction deaths in 2015-16, compared to 35 in 2014-15.