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Health & Safety Maters: YouTube antics must be stamped out

Tomfoolery on building sites is no laughing matter, says Bob Towse, head of technical and safety at the HVCA
IT might just look like a bit of fun, but there are very serious implications to the kind of incidents of horseplay on building sites recently filmed and shown on the YouTube website. In fact, the industry is taking this subject so seriously that it became the subject of a debate hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Building Services Engineering Group in March.

The incidents of workers apparently setting each other alight and diving into wet concrete, which were filmed on a mobile phone and then posted on the Internet, were of particular concern to our sector as they featured a number of people wearing jackets displaying MITIE and Bailey logos.

It has subsequently emerged that there is no significant link to these companies, but in each case the company has investigated the matter in detail. Other major building services contractors have also expressed concern about this kind of irresponsible behaviour.

The All Party group chair Claire Curtis-Thomas MP was also outraged.

'In recent years, the building services engineering sector has enjoyed an excellent - and continuously improving - reputation for its commitment to health and safety,' said Claire, an engineer herself.

'Irresponsible and potentially dangerous behaviour, such as that portrayed in the video clips, has no place in today's construction industry. All steps must therefore be taken - by both employers and employees - to stamp it out.'

Bill Belshaw, chairman of the Heating and Ventilating Joint Safety Committee, was equally unhappy but expressed the view that these people are not typical of workers our sector.

'I believe that the incidents highlighted are by no means representative of the sector, and that, by and large, building services engineering contractors take site safety very seriously, in every situation and at all levels of the workforce,' he said.

There is no doubt that these people were clearly messing around, are obviously not the brightest and don't represent the bulk of members of this industry. But it is equally important to take firm action before others - particularly newcomers to our profession - feel the need to emulate this behaviour.

Managers need to put greater controls in place, and to take robust action against anybody identified in these videos. We don't need them in our industry and we don't want to see this kind of thing escalating with a serious injury the inevitable outcome.

The YouTubers might think it was funny, but no one who cares about our sector and the safety of its workers is laughing.

For more information contact Bob Towse on 020 7313 4928 (btowse@hvca.org.uk)
1 April 2007

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