There have long been allegations, whispered among industry gatherings, of covert operations and sinister lists circulating of troublemakers that should be kept off construction sites at all costs

Well, the rumours have been proved true. The Information Commissioner’s Office has uncovered a blacklist of more than 3200 workers, detailing sensitive information going back over 15 years.

Ian Kerr, the owner of a firm known as the Consulting Association, has been busy compiling sensitive data on workers and the ICO has evidence that 40 construction companies, including leading m&e contractors, have at one time purchased data. Firms appear to have subscribed to Kerr’s system for a £3000 annual fee. Companies could add data to the list, and paid an additional £2.20 for details held on individuals.

The ICO has served an enforcement notice for breach of the Data Protection Act. Personal details were held on individuals without their knowledge or consent and the existence of the database was repeatedly denied.

What reputable firm would risk using such a list? Aside from the obvious breach of the law, how could you know for certain that the information was correct? How many workers have been denied a livelihood simply for daring to question their firm’s health and safety regime?

This sordid little episode does the industry no favours, coming hot on the heels of the Office of Fair Trading probe into price fixing. There will be further calls for the construction sector to get its house in order, and a proposal for new legislation to punish companies that act in this way has been put forward by the trade unions.

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