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We must stop deaths, minister tells unions

Ucatt conference told construction firms must be held accountable for fatalities

CONSTRUCTION minister Nigel Griffiths made safety and the image of the industry the key topic of his debut speech to delegates at the Ucatt conference in Scarborough.

Mr Griffiths is the first construction minister to address the conference since the 1970s and used his speech to call for an end to deaths on site.

He said: 'I will not rest until not one person is killed in construction.And if that means forcing contractors to take full responsibility for safety then so be it. Corporate manslaughter must be the ultimate penalty.

'The best firms make health and safety of their workers their top priority.The message must be clear to the rest.

We will not let anyone opt out of that top priority.We owe that to Patrick and Margaret O'Sullivan.'

PC Harrington employee Mr O'Sullivan was killed on the Wembley stadium construction site earlier this year.

His daughter Margaret O'Sullivan spoke out at a meeting of workers on the site, calling for safety standards on sites to be improved across the country.

Later, speaking to Construction News, Mr Griffiths confirmed his commitment to strong safety regulations. He said: 'Lawyers can sort out compensation for the dead but they do not save lives. I want to work with Ucatt to further improve the situation.The Government is soon expecting to introduce a Bill to strengthen corporate manslaughter provisions.'

Mr Griffiths also gave his backing to Ucatt's attempts to improve the industry's image. He said: 'I pledge to work with Ucatt in partnership to revolutionise the public perception of the industry. I want to make the industry the most advanced, safest and highly paid in the world.'

Mr Griffiths'speech was given a warm reception by delegates but some questioned his ability to deliver on his promises.

One said: 'I want to get hold of a copy of the text of what the minister said.He has made some impressive claims that I will be reporting back to my region. I hope he can live up to what he has promised.'