Work deaths harm whole families
Workers' Memorial Day special report
The Dennis family Daniel Dennis died at work aged 17: he had been in the job for just one week, had not been properly trained and had no safety equipment when he fell through a store skylight in April 2003. His mother, Anthea, said: “Daniel was our baby. It’s affected us at every level, the whole family. You really want to die.
The Stewart family It was over a year before anyone told Christel Stewart her brother had died. Chris Knoop, 50, suffered horrific burns in a workplace explosion. The directors of the company responsible didn't turn up for the crown court case. And the Crown Court fine was just £2 with £1 costs.
Christel’s seven-year-old son, George, watching coverage of the trial verdict on television, said: “Does this mean that they killed uncle Chris for £3?”. Christel said: “It was true, so true. They killed him for £3.”
The Herbertson family Linzi Herbertson’s husband Andy was killed aged 29 when he fell from an unsafe scaffold. ”I had to turn off his life support machine on our son’s 8th birthday. The company were fined less than £10,000 and I was on my own with two young children.”
She added: "My children are now of an age when they will be going out to work. I live in fear that
they will be no safer than their father was as I know that the enforcement of health
and safety is very lax and employers have no fear of paying a proportionate penalty
and know if they kill someone it’s relatively easy to get off with a fine."
The Ivory family Ralph ‘Barney’ Kennedy, 24, died instantly when he touched the live metal casing on a light fitting during improvements work on a Camden Council housing block in September 2006. An investigation found someone had cut the earth cable to the light, possibly to stop it flickering. Camden Council admitted breaching health and safety legislation by failing in its duty to inspect light fittings on the estate.
The council was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of more than £16,000. Barney’s partner, Kelly Ivory, was left to care for their two infants, Bailey and Bethany. At the time of his death, Barney was working extra hours to pay for a puppy to give to Bailey on his birthday. Kelly said: “The children both talk about Barney. He would always take them to the park and the zoo. I miss him.”
The Swirzynski family Father-of-two Zbigniew Roman Swirzynski was killedon a construction site when struck by a 2.4-ton concrete counterweight which fell from a crane on 15 January 2008. Katarzyna Swirzynski, 34, speaking through her husband’s niece Monika Litwin, said she had thought the UK was “safe” but the inquest into the construction worker’s death had not told her who was responsible.
The Whelan family Chris Whelan lost his big brother, Craig, in an horrific chimney fire in 2002. He died along with fellow steeplejack Paul Wakefield. Their mum, Linda, is a Families Against Corporate Killers founder member.
“The government must take some of the blame as they don’t plough funds into health and safety, therefore inspections in the workplace are not carried out - there are not enough inspections!”, she says.
The Hutin family Andrew Hutin, 20, was killed along with two other workers in a furnace explosion on 8 November 2001 at the Corus steelworks, Port Talbot, South Wales. Corus was fined £1.3m, with Justice Lloyd-Jones criticising the company's “casual” attitude to safety. Relatives of the three men killed in the 2001 explosion - Len Radford, 53, Stephen Galsworthy, 25, and Andrew Hutin - walked out of the court in disgust when the penalty was announced.
Andrew's father, Michael, said: "Corus has suffered, I have been informed, from the death of my son, my family see
no evidence of that, we however, have suffered every single day since, is it too much
to ask for the justice that Andrew deserves?" He added: “Corus has received £75 million from its insurers, which paid in full for a new blast furnace, opened with a huge amount of national publicity by Prince Charles. Could someone therefore inform me, because I am obviously missing something here, who has been penalised?”
The Sullivan family Mary O'Sullivan, the widow of Patrick O'Sullivan, 54, killed by a falling platform at Wembley Stadium said she is “disgusted” by a verdict of accidental death at his inquest.
Carpenter Patrick O'Sullivan, 54, died after a platform fell more than 300ft and landed on him while he was working on the construction of the new Wembley Stadium in January 2004. Mary said: “He was crushed to death that morning. And they crushed us to death as well.”
The Norman family Gordon Field, 58, was crushed by unsafe lifting gear at Armstrong's Steel, Stoke-on-Trent, on 30 October 2000. He died five days later. His daughter, Sharon Norman, said: "The company had done a risk assessment but failed to do anything about it. My dad was working alone, so not sure how long he had been crushed, could have been from 1-12 minutes. If he had been with someone he would have survived from his injuries but Armstrong’s were saving money!"
She continued: "Four hours after his accident a safety stand was made at a cost of £12, this would have stopped the lifting gear from falling on him - far too little, far too late." The company was in business manufacturing the sort of safety equipment which should have been used to protect Gordon.
"The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted Armstrong’s two years after the inquest, and it was fined £100,000 for my dad’s death," she said. "Armstrong’s pleaded guilty but
never said they were sorry. I feel someone must pay for this crime. I would have been satisfied if some one had just said sorry to me but nobody did."
The Le Bretton family Denis Le Bretton was 57 when he suffered the injuries that would cause his death on 3 April 2001. He was an agency driver working for Imerys at Melbury Quarry, St Austell. He suffered multiple injuries when his vehicle flipped backwards off a collapsing tip. He managed to crawl out of his crushed cab but died six weeks later.
months prior to his death he had been very unhappy about safety at the quarry. He
felt the trucks were not maintained properly and had complained on several
occasions. Once he refused to drive a truck with bald tyres and was
suspended. Because there were few
alternative jobs, he felt compelled to stay in work.
Den was very nervous about going to work on the day he died. His wife, Helen,
suggested he stayed home, but he decided reluctantly to go in.
At the inquest into his death the jury returned a verdict of "unlawful death through negligence". In August 2003, Imerys and co-defendant Aggregate Industries were prosecuted and together were told to pay a total £380,000 in fines and costs.
A Hazards special investigation
The decimation of Britain's industrial base was supposed to have one obvious upside - an end to dirty and deadly jobs.
In this 'Deadly business' series, Hazards reveals how a hands off approach to safety regulation means workers continue to die in preventable 'accidents' at work.
Meanwhile, an absence of oversight means old industrial diseases are still affecting millions, and modern jobs are creating a bloodless epidemic of workplace diseases - from 'popcorn lung' to work related suicide.