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Water chief hits out at industry over safety and diversity

A senior client figure has criticised a lack of action to improve safety and equality in the construction industry.

Severn Trent head of asset creation John Bentley said he wanted suppliers to reduce workplace injuries and get more women on to sites.

Bentley was speaking at the inaugural Civil Engineering Contractors Association Infrastructure Supplier Conference for the Midlands region.

“We all talk about the bureaucracy of health and safety and we’re kind of fuelling the fire, we’re all playing out a game,” he said.

“Severn Trent wants active leadership; it wants site managers to really step up to the plate. It’s shocking that the industry is still injuring people.”

Bentley implored suppliers to be more creative about cutting the numbers of safety incidents.

He added that the low numbers of women he saw working on site were alarming.

“When we go to safety workshops we have something like 120 people present and only three or four of them are women,” said Bentley. “That’s not good enough. The construction sector needs to do more in that area.”

Bentley outlined Severn Trent’s plans to spend between £2.5bn and £3bn over the next five years through its AMP6 programme, which starts on 1 April.

This will include improvements to the resilience of the water-treatment supply; a new pumping works on the River Severn; and “huge investment” in Birmingham’s water treatment works.  

Severn Trent is also planning £75M of repairs to the 118-year-old Elan Valley Aqueduct plus £200M of investment to bring the region in line with the European Water Framework Directive.

“That programme is to do with building or extending activated sludge plants or installing chemical dosing to treat phosphates,” Bentley explained.

The full report from the Ceca conference will be published in the 5 March issue of NCE.

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