Television documentary that pilloried construction's health and safety record ignored positive evidence, Construction Confederation claims.
The Construction Confederation has criticised a television documentary that claimed building companies had the worst conviction rates for health and safety offences.

Last week's "Bosses In The Dock", part of Channel 4's Dispatches series, compiled a league table of companies with the highest accident conviction rates. The list was dominated by major contractors and topped by Tarmac.

The programme highlighted two fatal accidents on Tarmac sites, and included interviews with former colleagues and relatives of the dead workers.

It revealed that an accident in which a worker died after a trench collapse on a Tarmac site occurred three months after a similar fatality on another Tarmac site.

Tarmac was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive and fined £3000.

Suzannah Thursfield, director of health and safety at the Construction Confederation, said the programme failed to present a balanced view of the industry.

She said: "The programme didn't look at the whole picture. It didn't give a balanced view of what the industry is doing to reduce accidents.

"All the companies mentioned in the programme have safety managers who check their sites and implement strict safety measures." A Tarmac spokesman said: "They gave two very biased versions of the accidents, failing to mention significant points that the court felt mitigated our position, hence the low fines." In a statement, Tarmac said: "The figures Dispatches has used to compile the 'league table' are dated, going back 10 years to include many companies that are no longer part of the group and give a totally misleading picture of the current performance." But the programme-makers said only seven of Tarmac's 75 convictions over the past 10 years were related to companies that are no longer part of the Tarmac group.

A spokesman for Costain, which was also named in the programme, said: "We do not feel the programme took full account of improvements the industry has made in recent times.

"In Costain, the number of accidents has decreased by 40% in the past three years. There's still much to be done, but we're moving in the right direction." Peter Pentecost, market development director at Mowlem, said: "We're not proud to be on that list. But our accident frequency record has been improving substantially year on year and is now one of the best in the industry, so it's disappointing they looked at just the 10-year picture." A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive, which was also criticised for failing to investigate accidents, said: "David Bergman [the programme's producer and director] is well known to us and many of his arguments are known to us.

"We don't hide the fact that there will always be a limit to how many investigations we can carry out at one time. We have to make professional judgements."