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CN Briefing: Didcot power station; Coleman & Co; HSE

It is 10 weeks to the day since the partial collapse of the boiler house at Didcot Power Station claimed the life of 53-year-old Michael Collings.

The three other men still missing – Christopher Huxtable, Ken Cresswell and John Shaw – were, like Mr Collings, direct employees of demolition contractor Coleman & Company.

It emerged over the weekend that the company will hand over the recovery operation at Didcot Power Station to another contractor, Brown and Mason.

Brown and Mason is a well-respected contractor within the sector, with a very strong track record in power station demolition and decommissioning across Europe, but that will do little to lessen the hurt felt by Coleman & Co.

Managing director Mark Coleman tweeted on Saturday that he was “so disappointed” by the switch, which “prevents us recovering our men”.

This decision will be hard to take for the firm’s employees who are still on site, many of whom will be friends with the missing men and will want to do right by them by helping with the recovery.

Thames Valley Police and the Health and Safety Executive took control of the site after the incident and are still gathering evidence while the investigation into the cause of the collapse continues.

But answers will be sought as to why it is taking so long to recover the men – 10 weeks is a long time, and let’s not forget that it took over three weeks for the recovery operation to resume once work was stopped in the immediate aftermath of the boiler house collapse.

The slow progress of the recovery was heavily criticised by the families at the time, who have again protested to RWE about the recently announced decision to use explosives to bring down the remaining structure of the boiler house.

Sarah Champion – MP for Rotherham, where two of the missing men are from – has met the HSE, TVP and RWE on behalf of some of the family members. She said she was “genuinely shocked” and “furious” at the way the families were being treated by RWE, and that they were being “seen as an annoyance”.

This doesn’t paint a great picture and leaves some questions to be answered.

Unfortunately, much of what’s going on at Didcot is uncharted territory for those involved. But surely it’s in the best interests of everyone involved to try to reach a conclusion as swiftly as possible, without prejudicing any investigation.

Ten weeks is a long time to wait for anything – never mind the recovery of a loved one.

In the news

Problem contracts have been causing trouble for many of the industry’s biggest contractors over the last year or more. McLaren’s 2014/15 results today reveal that similar problems have resulted in a £12m loss in its construction division.

“Ambiguous”. “Lacking transparency”. “Raises serious concerns for local stakeholders”. The leader of Manchester City Council has slammed Sir Peter Hendy’s report on Network Rail’s £38.5bn enhancement scheme.

In detail

Sub-price tendering and low margins, coupled with the aforementioned problem jobs, have led to a recessionary hangover for many. But is the worst over yet? Charlie Schouten takes a look.

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