Number of construction deaths resulting in corporate convinctions has fallen dramatically according to new report

The number of corporate convictions arising from the deaths of construction workers has fallen dramatically, according to a new report.

The report, released by construction union Ucatt, says that the percentage of deaths that has resulted in a conviction fell from 42% in 1998/9 to 11% in 2003/4.

It also found that only 105 (21%) of the 504 construction deaths in the period from April 1998 to March 2004 resulted in a conviction.

The report has been released to coincide with Workers Memorial Day (28 April). Ucatt says the number of workers killed on building sites rose by 25% last year.

Ucatt general secretary Alan Ritchie said: “The failure of the HSE to prosecute companies who kill their workers is profoundly shocking. The HSE are clearly failing to follow their own rules and guidelines on prosecutions. Serious questions must be asked about why the HSE is so spectacularly failing to prosecute more companies.”

The union claimed that a recent HSE internal audit estimated that prosecutions should occur three times more often than they currently do, creating a target of 60%.

HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger denied having targets for prosecutions: "Every prosecution has to be considered on the circumstances of the case - is the evidence available? Does it support a prosecution? Is it in the public interest? We're like any other prosecutor, we've got to behave fairly.”

He also questioned the veracity of the report’s findings: “It does seem that some of the statistics are inaccurate. For example, in 2002/3 the report says that there were 12 convictions. We are aware of around 30 such convictions for that year.”

Stephen Hepburn MP, the secretary of UCATT’s parliamentary group, has tabled a series of questions about issues raised in the report and hopes to get the findings debated in the House of Commons.