Firm linked to blacklist given a seat on the HSE board

A blacklisted construction worker has expressed concern at the appointment to the Health and Safety Executive’s board of a top director with construction giant Laing O’Rourke, one of the companies named in a major UK safety blacklisting scandal.

Howard Shiplee (right), who joined Laing O’Rourke as an executive director in October 2011, took his place on the HSE board on 13 August 2012.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, which provided former site worker Dave Smith with a copy of a blacklisting file held on him by The Consulting Association, said Laing O’Rourke was one of the major firms identified by code numbers in his file.

Smith said he “nearly choked” when he heard Laing had a director on HSE’s board. “Laing O’Rourke has one of the worst reputations in the entire construction industry,” he said.

“They are proven blacklisters of union safety reps. If the HSE Board don’t believe me, I will be happy to send them a copy of my blacklist file, where the company they have just invited into their fold are specifically identified as supplying information.” Also on Shiplee’s CV is a stint at Amec, another prominent user and supporter of covert blacklisting outfit The Consulting Association.

Smith said the appointment of a top Laing director to HSE’s board compounded his dismay at HSE’s failure to “to take any action or even investigate the systematic victimisation and blacklisting of safety reps since the scandal was uncovered in 2009. Now the guilty men are making the policy decisions. It reminds me of the film China Town and makes me feel physically sick to my stomach.”

The Department of Work and Pensions said Shiplee “has been appointed as one of the Board’s employer interest representatives.”

The new board member, whose last job prior to joining Laing O’Rourke was as the £258,750 a year construction director for the Olympic Delivery Authority, said: “It is a privilege and responsibility to be appointed to the board of the Health and Safety Executive and I am looking forward to playing an active role in support of their important work.”

Shiplee added: “I firmly believe that high standards of health and safety are not only statutory requirements and morally right, but are also good for business – a healthy, safe and engaged workforce is more productive and committed to the objectives of its employers as conclusively demonstrated by the London 2012 construction programme.”

TUC’s Sarah Veale has also been appointed to HSE’s board as an employee interest representative. She takes up her post on 1 October.

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