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Strengthen safety on sites before more lives are lost

23 March, 2017

Police and firefighters at the Swains Lane construction site after last week’s explosion

THE needless death of a construction worker in Swains Lane is the latest of similar tragedies to befall Camden in recent years.

Just last month, a coroner criticised dangerous working practices at the Paddington building site where Regent Park estate resident Andrew Lowne was crushed by a huge window pane in 2015.

In 2014, the Slovakian worker Rene Tcazik was killed by huge blocks of falling concrete, while helping to tunnel the Crossrail railway deep underground in Holborn.

Former City worker turned labourer Richard Laco was killed in 2013 when a concrete block slipped out of position and fell on top of him at the Francis Crick Institute in St Pancras. In 2009, young labourer Craig Page died when a crawler crane tipped on top of him as he worked in a pit in Denning Road, Hampstead.

In each of those cases, health and safety procedures have been found wanting.

In some, language barriers have appeared a hindrance during morning “toolbox” safety talks. Construction workers must be made comfortable enough to report unsafe practices. Many are self-employed and will fear to do so if they want to return to their jobs next week.

Unions have questioned large construction firms’ approach to health and safety.

If these deaths are going to stop, regulation must not be seen an intrusive burden to employers.

The construction industry is notorious as the most dangerous sector in Britain. The latest statistics show that in 2015/16 there were 43 fatal injuries to workers on building sites. And annual death toll has remained relatively constant since the government began its almost ideological assault on the Health and Safety Executive. The health and safety watchdog has lost almost half its funding since 2010.

With one of the largest construction projects in Europe soon to start in Camden, how many more workers will pay with their lives to build HS2?

Sperm wanted by the Whittington

Whittington embryologist Erica Foster

THE move to set up a sperm bank at the Whittington is certainly a sign of the times where expert NHS staff have to think about ways of boosting funding to their own departments. Clinical professionals are now tasked with formulating new business models as well as maintaining their patients.

The project will no doubt raise a few jeers from the sceptics. A national sperm bank, set up in a Birmingham hospital a few years ago, spectacularly failed and was shut down because of a lack of donors.

Let’s hope Camden and Islington residents do not prove to be such sexual introverts and take inspiration from the Danes.

Young men: the Whittington needs you!

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