Canary Wharf Group this week distanced itself from press comments made by vice-president of construction John Pagano.

Speaking to a journalist from The Observer about the decision to appoint two contractors to build two new towers, Pagano was asked if the idea was to have the two race each other to get the jobs done.

Pagano is reported to have said: “Absolutely. They’re matching each other floor for floor at the moment.”

A spokesperson for Canary Wharf Group said the conversation took place some weeks before the accident that led to the deaths of three crane operatives working on one of the towers. He claimed that the statement had been taken out of context.

The spokesperson said: “There is absolutely no question that we would compromise safety in the way suggested. The idea that we have set contractors against each other to the detriment of the safety of workers is ridiculous.”

The story reflects rumours circulating at the site of the accident last week.

Commenting on Pagano’s remarks, one senior union official said: “That’s the sort of competition the industry can do without.”