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Channel Tunnel

Volume 172: debated on Tuesday 15 May 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if the Health and Safety Executive have any plans to compile comparative figures for accident and serious injury rate figures for both sides of the channel tunnel construction project.

The Health and Safety Executive does not have any plans to compile comparative figures for accident and serious injury rates for both sides of the channel tunnel construction project. Information about accidents is already exchanged in the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority health and safety working group for accident prevention purposes. It is difficult to compare directly figures from the French and United Kingdom sides due to the different national procedures and criteria for accident reporting.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment the Health and Safety Executive has made of the adequacy of medical facilities on the construction site of the channel tunnel and within the tunnel itself; and what were its conclusions.

The Health and Safety Executive monitors the medical facilities at the channel tunnel site and is keen to ensure that the current level of service is maintained.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what information he has on the numbers of people employed on the channel tunnel construction project on (a) the British side and (b) the French side at the end of 1987, 1988, 1989 and the latest date for which information is available.

Available information about the total numbers of people employed on the channel tunnel construction project is as follows:

Total employed on the project
YearNumber
February 19882,218
January 19895,014
December 19896,950
Figures for the French side are not available.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what comparative research exists within the Health and Safety Executive into accident or incident rates on (a) civil engineering and (b) construction projects within Europe.

The Health and Safety Executive has not carried out any comparative research into these matters.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment on what dates meetings took place between representatives of the Health and Safety Executive and their counterparts in France to discuss health and safety issues arising out of the construction of the channel tunnel.

Officials of the Health and Safety Executive regularly meet representatives of the French Government through the bi-national Channel Tunnel Safety Authority and its working groups, including the health and safety working group which considers safety matters arising out of the construction of the channel tunnel. The health and safety working group meets on average once a month. This year the group met on 25 January, 22 February, 13 March, 26 March and 26 April.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what discussions have been held over the need to harmonise working standards and practices when the Channel tunnels meet; and whether there will be a harmonisation of relevant national legislation.

A series of discussions have been held. in the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority's bi-national health and safety working group on the health and safety arrangements which will need to be put in place when the tunnels meet. No final decisions have yet been taken about these arrangements.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will undertake an inquiry into the safety of working practices to report as a matter of urgency on construction of the channel tunnel.

No. The prime responsibility for health and safety rests with employers. Transmanche Link has told my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State that it is to re-examine all working practices and procedures in the light of recent incidents. It has agreed to share with the Health and Safety Executive the results of an internal audit of safety arrangements and work practices. The accident prevention advisory unit of the Health and Safety Executive is already undertaking an audit of safety practice in relation to the maintenance of the tunnel boring machines.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the death of Mr. William Cartman on Monday 7 May during work on the channel tunnel.

The accident which led to the death of Mr. William Cartman on Monday 7 May is currently under investigation by the Health and Safety Executive. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State met senior management of the channel tunnel contractors, Transmanche Link, on 10 May to discuss the safety arrangements on site. Transmanche Link has undertaken to re-examine all working practices and procedures in the light of recent incidents.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what information and statistics exist about (a) accident rates, (b) death rates and (c) serious injury on the French and British sides of construction of the channel tunnel.

The Health and Safety Executive holds information and statistics on accidents on the channel tunnel construction site reported to it under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1985 (RIDDOR). The collection of information and statistics for the French side of the project is a matter for the French authorities. Information about accidents is exchanged in the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority's health and safety working group for accident prevention purposes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the relationship between the Health and Safety Executive and the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority.

The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcing the Health and Safety at Work, &c. Act and the relevant statutory provisions which apply to the United Kingdom channel tunnel construction sites. The Channel Tunnel Safety Authority is a bi-national body established under the treaty of Canterbury and its duties are set out in that treaty. An HSE official is a member of the safety authority.