James Evison

Editor, SHP Online

June 21, 2017

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IFSEC 2017

Director offers harrowing insight into workplace death

A harrowing story of a former construction director has offered an example of the need for health and safety vigilance on site at the Safety and Health Expo 2017.

Matthew Hazelton, speaking on behalf of training specialist Proud2bSafe, spoke about his personal journey following a workplace incident where his brother died.

He said the incident left him ‘having to deal with things you don’t think you will ever have to deal with’ – and that he struggled with the attention of the media and organising the funeral for his brother.

Legal

Hazelton said: ‘While I was trying to deal with the personal side of things, I then had to realise I had to deal with the legal side of things.

‘Director to me was a ridiculously posh term – I had no idea what I was about to get myself into.’

He explained how he had meetings with the insurance company, which led to the HSE and the police involvement.

‘Getting arrested and taken to a police station under cameras is not a nice feeling,’ he said.

The legal process also meant that he couldn’t speak to his work colleagues and friends as they weren’t allowed the same barrister or solicitor and ‘when you really want to be close to your mates, you are being dragged apart’.

Timeline

He warned about timelines following such an event – in his case it took six and a half years before the verdict of accidental death.

‘You are being hidden away from everyone when you feel you haven’t got anything to hide.

‘We were doing and all the while as a business we were doing okay – and we went to losing money, getting new business was a no-no, but old clients did look after us.’

Mental health

Hazelton also talked about the personal toll on his own mental health. Despite continuing in the construction industry, he could never get over the incident.

‘I could never recreate the old construction firm vibe and I kept getting angrier.

‘My wife had stood by me, but when she left, then the wheels really came off and I started drinking and doing drugs.’

Things came to a head when he had a collision with a transit van at 60mph.

‘I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to do anything. When I have to go to see my mother on mother’s day – I will always feel guilt.’

Consequences

‘It’s something I have to live with everyday as the client has to, and the main contractor does.’

He summed up that the effect it has is on a personal level and a legal level, and on his children and family.

‘The effects will be felt for the rest of their lives.

‘Was there enough pre-planning by us? No. That is something I will have to live with.

‘I really hope that none of you have to make those phone calls, because if you do, your lives will never, ever be the same again.’

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