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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Action urged over building deaths
Vigil outside building site talks
Campaigners held a vigil outside the talks in central London
The government has hosted high-level talks in an attempt to take action over the number of deaths on building sites.

Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain arranged the meeting in London in response to a 28% rise in the number of deaths last year from 66 to 77.

He is expected to tell the meeting with unions, employers and safety officials that the rise is "not acceptable".

Campaigners held a silent vigil outside the talks to remember those who have died in construction accidents.

Health and safety

According to the Health and Safety Executive the number of deaths last year jumped from 60 to 77.

Mr Hain told the BBC health and safety regulations must apply to all construction sites.

"77 people were killed last year and it was a big jump by over a quarter on the deaths the previous year," he said.

"This is not acceptable and I am bringing together the industry, the Health and Safety Executive, governments, together with the trade unions to agree on a new action plan making sure that health and safety on all building sites is paramount. "

Mr Hain is to call for building workers to have better skills and an understanding of health and safety issues.

He will also suggest that union health and safety representatives be appointed at every building site.

Safety could be improved if workers were employed by the company rather than self-employed, construction workers union Ucatt is expected to tell the forum.

The union says many self-employed workers, including migrants, are denied employment rights and do not have essential safety training.

Mr Hain said there was already general agreement on several areas including "the need to drive the informal economy out of the housebuilding sector", the importance of taking health and safety seriously and the need to take proper enforcement action.

Silent vigil

Members of the Battersea Crane Disaster Action Group (BCDAG) joined protesters from the Construction Safety Campaign for the vigil at the Thistle Hotel in London's Charing Cross.

The BCDAG was formed after two people were killed when a crane machine collapsed onto a block of flats in Battersea, south-west London, in September last year.

Liliana Alexa, secretary of the BCDAG, and mother of 23-year-old Michael Alexa who died in the accident, said: "We are obviously pleased that Peter Hain has said he won't tolerate a continued increase in construction deaths and his commitment that the forum won't just be a talking shop.

"However, we'll be looking closely at the action plan that comes out of the meeting.

"We're supporting the Construction Safety Campaign's demonstration because the 30% increase in workers killed in construction is completely unacceptable."

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Profile: Peter Hain
24 Jun 07 |  UK Politics

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