BRUSSELS (Brussels Morning) – The ABVV socialist trade union wants to urgently improve communication on construction sites. There could also be more and better checks on undeclared work. It says that in response to the two fatal industrial accidents in Brussels in a week. “It’s bad to say, but this doesn’t surprise me anymore,” says Gianni De Vlaminck, federal secretary for the construction sector at the ABVV.
On Monday 1 March, a 31-year-old worker tumbles from a scaffolding from the third floor of the Brunfaut Tower in Molenbeek. He dies on the spot. Exactly one week later, another construction worker is killed on a construction site on Rogierplein.
Communication problems and undeclared work
In both cases, the Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office notes that it is “a regrettable accident at work and that the safety regulations were properly observed.” The ABVV socialist trade union does not contradict this, but at the same time is not surprised that such tragic events still take place.
“Every year, we see about 20 to 25 fatal occupational accidents in the statistics for the whole of Belgium. That number is not going down, but is stagnant. And that worries us,” says Gianni De Vlaminck, federal secretary for the construction sector of the ABVV, who immediately adds that this does not surprise him.
“It may be a bad thing to say, but that is no longer a coincidence. This has already been discussed several times with competent federal minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS). Then we clearly exposed the pain points.”
“First of all, there is a major communication problem. Many workers do not speak our national languages. That makes it even more difficult to give directions or inform them of dangerous situations.”
“In addition, there is still a lot of undeclared work and social fraud in the construction sector. There are often several unregistered workers on a construction site. They have no right of residence and therefore enjoy no protection. As a result, they are more likely to be left to their own devices. The chance that the official death rate is a lot higher is therefore high.”
‘Chaos due to different contracts’
But it is not only the many undeclared work and the lack of communication that kills workers. The tangle of employment contracts also puts some in a difficult position. “A number of companies pass by a construction site, each with their own statute and contract. You have self-employed workers, subcontractors and so on,” explains De Vlaminck.
“Each has their own privileges and protection status. It is time for that to change. In any case, Dermagne has promised to work towards a safer working environment in the construction sector. During a new meeting at the end of last year, it was therefore decided that every worker who makes the transition to construction without experience will have to follow a safety training course of at least 8 hours. That is already a first step in the right direction,” said the federal secretary.