Two more demolition workers killed. Now what?
Profanity, it is said, is the last refuge of the truly ignorant. Well get ready because I am about to be as truly ignorant as it is possible to be. If you have an issue with bad language, stop now.
So I find myself, yet again, reporting upon deaths within the UK demolition industry. Where, when and how the two men died or who they worked for, frankly, is neither here nor there. Whether they were directly employed or sub-contracted is not an issue for now. What training they had received, what experience they possessed, and what competence cards they carried is irrelevant. Precisely how long the HSE will take to process this latest double fatality – bearing in mind that it is still trudging its way through the Didcot disaster three and a half years later – is anyone’s guess. But that doesn’t matter either, at least for now.
What matters now is the fact that this industry of ours has sent another two men to the morgue. Two more working men have died at the hands of an industry that likes to portray itself as safety focussed, even when the evidence repeatedly and all too regularly suggests otherwise. Two more families have been left without a husband, son, father, or breadwinner.
And the reaction from the industry at large? “So sad to hear that”. “RIP lads”. “Our thoughts are with their families”. A sad face emoji on Facebook. What the f*ck?
As a journalist, I sit on the very periphery of this industry. Sure, I have “skin in the game” but I am “of” the industry, not “in” the industry. And I am not sad. If I am being 100 percent honest, my thoughts are not with the families either. I am f*cking furious. I am past the point where I want to sit quietly and contemplate the implications of an accident of this nature. I want to shout and f*cking punch people. I want to grab people by the throat and scream into their stupid self-righteous f*cking faces. I want to call out the industry for every time it has used a safety campaign or initiative as a PR exercise. I want to rail against the thin veneer of professionalism with which the industry coats itself in order to hide the true nature of what lies beneath.
Like every fatality suffered in this industry, this is not an incident. It is not an accident. It is not a cause for sadness. It is a f*cking disgrace.
Two fatalities in a single incident speaks not of a forward-thinking, squeaky-clean, safety-conscious industry. It speaks of an industry trapped in a self-imposed time-warp; where working conditions are often closer to the Victorian workhouse than anyone dare admit. A sector in which accidents are considered an integral part of the landscape. An industry in which, apparently, men (and women) remain an expendable commodity.
It speaks volumes that I am angered almost as much at the lack of industry outrage and fury as I am by the death of two innocent men at the hands of a sector that can be described, justifiably, as a serial killer.
Never mind what the HSE may or may not say five or even ten years down the line. Never mind what a police spokesperson says, what the local mayor says, or what the National Federation of Demolition Contractors says or doesn’t say. The industry – the men and women that earn their living within the demolition arena – have every justification to be red-faced with indignation; to be f*cking livid.
How dare an industry – any industry – continue to kill people in this day and age?
And yet, so far, these two deaths – like all those that have gone before and, likely, all those that will follow – have been greeted with platitudes that have been trotted out so many times that they’re now weathered, worn and threadbare. Where there should be anger, there is resignation. Where there should be foaming-at-the-mouth anger, there is apathy and weary acceptance.
Perhaps naively, I thought (hoped) that the Didcot disaster would be a nadir for the industry; that demolition would make sweeping changes in the aftermath of that tragedy, turn over a new leaf, and forge a new and safer path. Clearly, I was wrong. And if an accident that kills four men cannot bring about change, it seems unlikely that the death of two more will either.
The tragedy at Didcot was greeted with dismay, its aftermath – rightly – cloaked in sadness and solemnity. But where did that get us?
Given the industry’s repeat offender status, there is no longer time for sadness, no longer room for solemnity. This latest atrocity – yes, atrocity, look it up – should be greeted with incandescent rage and a groundswell of furious anger, the likes of which the industry has never seen. If it is not, two more men will have died in vain. Like so many before them, they will have given their lives in service of an industry that did not and does not value them; an industry that will go on to kill again.
Angry? You’re f*cking right I am. And you f*cking should be too.