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MP seeks power station inquiry

By This is Devon  |  Posted: September 03, 2008


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A DEVON MP has called for an investigation of working practices and standards at a giant energy development after safety complaints from electricians.

Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for West Devon, said three of his constituents, who work at the Langage Power Station, near Plymouth, have approached him with concerns over foreign workers' technical skills, especially surrounding health and safety.

He said around half the workers employed at the Centrica energy project are foreign and often there is a language barrier.

Last month hundreds of workers went on strike outside the site after 16 were let off without warning.

Mr Streeter says workers were also on strike because of the issue of health and safety among colleagues.

But Alstom, the contractor responsible for the development, insists working practices and standards are uniformly high throughout the workforce.

Mr Streeter said: "Three people have approached me. All are electrical contractors and all are concerned about people working alongside them who don't have the same technical skills, particularly in health and safety.

"This was part of the problem which caused the strike and yet it hasn't been rectified."

Mr Streeter has written to Centrica, the energy firm which owns the site, calling for an "immediate inquiry" into the technical competency and health and safety awareness of foreign workers. Mr Streeter has also contacted both the project manager at the power station and the Government minister responsible, expressing his concerns.

He said: "I am told that many (of the foreign workers) are ignorant of health and safety requirements and have not obtained the basic level of competency that British workers have to achieve."

Energy firm Centrica has recruited Alstom as it main contractor for the work. Alstom employs around 1,000 tradesmen at the Langage energy centre site in Plymstock, near Plymouth.

Alstom spokesman Gert Overgaard denied there were any differences in technical ability or health and safety knowledge between British and foreign workers.

He said: "We are an international company which works on huge projects around the world. On every project we adopt the rules of the company we are working in – in this case the UK.

"We make sure the people we employ are qualified and we have our own internal reviews as well. We also rely on subcontractors who supply us with people."

Mr Overgaard said Alstom always employs people from many different countries so there is always a language issue. But he said that all health and safety talks are done in different groups for people of different languages.

He said: "Our safety instructions and signals are done in all the different languages. This does not cause any problems for us."

Mr Overgaard said only 10 of the electrical workers employed by Alstom at the Langage Power Station site were foreign – compared with 150 British electricians.

Work on the £400 million project began in autumn 2006.

Despite strike disruptions, the energy firm has confirmed it is still on track to complete the power station next spring.

Centrica spokesman Rhys Jones said: "I am aware of the letter sent to us by the MP yesterday.

"I will be happy to meet with him and discuss any specific questions.

"But Alstom in its role as the main engineering procurement contractor will have to check on the qualifications of the workforce and the standard of work being done on the site.

"Regular quality assurance procedures are being done to ensure that things are being done to the highest standards."

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  • Profile image for This is Devon
    cpry, Rugby  |  September 08 2008, 8:59AM

    The question is: How many H&S Managers in Alstom know about this and how many have resigned from July - August 2008 in CH and GB