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LORD.. HAVE MERCY; Dead workers' families order Tory joker in charge of cutting site deaths to get serious.

Byline: Penman & Sommerlad

THIS is the last thing you want to hear from the man in charge of cutting workplace deaths.

Lord Young of Graffham, who has the safety of millions of workers in his hands, believes that: "People occasionally get killed. It's unfortunate, but it's part of life."

His Lordship might want to try telling that to Barbara Clarke, whose husband Peter was needlessly killed weeks into a new job at Hanson Building Products brick plant in Coleshill, Birmingham two years ago.

"I just hope that it never happens to him," said Barbara. "It's been absolutely devastating."

The 57-year-old granddad died after his head was crushed as he removed bricks from a conveyor belt for quality checking.

The belt operator couldn't see Peter and the risk assessment for the site only identified the dangers of workers trapping fingers.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Peter Snelgrove said: "The area where he was working was well known as a danger zone by other workers, but he had been on site for less than two weeks and nobody had told him the risks."

In 2005, another Hanson employee working on a conveyor belt escaped with spinal injuries when a safety bar gave way. The firm was fined pounds 95,000 for "failing to take reasonably practicable measures".

This time, for Peter's death, Hanson was fined pounds 280,000 by Warwick Crown Court.

"It's not about the money," Barbara said. "It's about making sure it doesn't happen to anyone else."

Despite the downturn, Hanson has paid out almost pounds 50m in dividends to its German parent company during the past three years while boss Patrick O'Shea trousers pounds 971,000 a year.

JUsing the Freedom of Information Act, we've found out that Hanson has reported 158 staff injuries in the past three years - that's an -injury rate more than three times the national average.

A Hanson spokesman told us it met the target of the Mineral Products Association - whose chairman happens to be Patrick O'Shea - but that they "recognise that we should have gone further" to protect Peter.

Meanwhile, Lord Young wants us to believe health and safety is a joke, prattling on about pancake races cancelled due to rain and conkers banned in the playground.

All you need to know about this bow-tie wearing caricature of a pompous old Conservative is that he actually says things like: "I got beaten at school and it didn't do me any harm."

The latest figures released yesterday show exactly why he mustn't be allowed to tear up decades of workplace health and safety improvements.

Last year there were 151 workplace deaths: 151 reasons why we need laws to protect us in factories and offices.

That figure is 27 fewer than the previous year, but that's partly because fewer people are in work. As the economy picks up, history tells us, so will the risks.

Families Against Corporate Killers points out that the Health and Safety Executive is already stripped to the bone.

Only one in 13 major and fatal injuries is now investigated and workplaces can expect a spot inspection just once every 38 years.

Its spokeswoman welcomes a review "but from the position of facts and evidence, not newspaper headlines and myths about conkers".


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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