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Global dam engineers condemn Iceland dam deaths


DAM EXPERTS this week slammed the safety record on the Karahnjukar Dam project in Iceland as client and main contractor defended their performance on the scheme.

Since it began in early 2003 four workers from local Icelandic contractors have been killed and at least seven Impregilo staff have been injured on the scheme (see box).

The latest death happened only last month (News last week).

'I have worked on dam projects all over the world and no-one has even been killed on any of the schemes. To have this number of incidents on a site is not usual, ' said International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) vice president Dr Andy Hughes.

Construction supervision on the scheme is carried out by a joint venture of seven firms led by Mott MacDonald, which said it was considering writing to main contractor Impregilo to express its fears over whether safety procedures were being followed.

Impregilo this week refuted the allegations in a statement to NCE.

'Impregilo denies in the strongest possible terms the accusation of alleged failure to implement safety procedures at its Karahnjukar Hydroelectric Project construction site, made by the managing director of Mott MacDonald.

'Impregilo declares that its group's strict safety policy has been regularly followed by its Iceland Branch at Karahnjukar as well as in all its other projects worldwide, and implemented so stringently that, notwithstanding the exceptional and extremely adverse environmental conditions in which the project is being executed, the safety records there have a high ranking among those of similar construction projects around the world.' But dam experts said that the project seemed to have an unusually high accident rate.

'It seems to me to be exceptionally bad. The accident rate is very high for this type of project, ' said a British Dam Society committee member.

Client on the project is Icelandic power company Landsvirkjun. It also defended Impregilo. 'Impregilo is doing better on safety records than on their average worldwide jobs.

At least 30% better than the overall.' said a spokesman Impregilo has 55% of the project work, with the rest going to local firms. Landsvirkjun said that safety is managed in a three stage process.

'Each individual contractor is responsible for managing risk. We then hire supervision teams and labour unions to provide safety officers who we pay for. We meet up with all of these groups and believe that we have the right procedures in place, ' said a spokesman.

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