A personal tribute to the four men killed at Didcot A Power Station.
Although our professional paths likely crossed, I never had the pleasure or privilege of knowing Mick Collings, Ken Cresswell, Chris Huxtable and John Shaw personally. But having followed every overlong twist and protracted turn of their collective story for almost seven months now, I know that their names will be etched upon my psyche for as long as I am associated with the demolition industry. I will remember those names for as long as I live.
And it is important that the wider demolition world remembers those names too. Not just in a minutes’ silence on the anniversary of their tragic demise – although 23 February would make a wholly fitting day upon which to remember all those killed and injured in this industry of ours – but in a far more ever-present and meaningful manner.
The names Collings, Cresswell, Huxtable and Shaw should be present in every toolbox talk or safety briefing, even if those names are not uttered audibly. Those names should be woven – unseen – into every risk assessment and method statement produced henceforth in this sector. Those names should be etched onto the hard hats of every new recruit joining this industry as a constant and poignant reminder of this industry’s darker side.
That said, even though it was how these men earned their living, fed their families and to which they paid the ultimate sacrifice, demolition does not define them. First and foremost, they were someone’s son. They were – variously – husbands, boyfriends, fathers and uncles. Demolition is just what they did to facilitate everything else in their lives; it was not who they were.
But – and let’s not make any bones about this – it was demolition that ripped these men from the arms of their individual families. And it is demolition that must learn the greatest lessons from this tragic, brutal and unforgiveable disaster.
The industry must take a long hard look at itself and figure out how – in an age of technological advancement and spiralling training costs – four decent men were allowed to perish in this manner. It should look again at the methods it employs and be willing to admit that “we have always done it that way” is no proof of the efficacy or safety of a methodology. And most of all, those within positions of power and influence within the industry must ask themselves just how well they would sleep if they were sending their sons and daughters to work on sites still cursed with the ability to maim and kill.
So on 23 February 2017 (and every year thereafter), we should each raise a glass to Mick Collings, Ken Cresswell, Chris Huxtable and John Shaw. We should light a candle for each of them. We should stop work for a moment and reflect upon their cruel passing. And, if that’s your thing, we should say a prayer for the families they each left behind.
But we should each do more. It is important – VITAL – that the deaths of these four men should mark a step change in the demolition sector’s attitude to safety.
The fact that demolition killed these four men is terrible, tragic, awful and unpardonable. The thought that their loss is not used as a catalyst to make this industry safer is just too unthinkable for words.