Unions representing construction workers have said they will refuse to accept a new on-site camera which can tell when a worker is not wearing the regulation helmet. Last week the building contractors Ceyssens from Hechtel and Brepoels Group in Bilzen, both in Limburg province, said they had developed a closed-circuit TV camera which can scan a building site and automatically spot any worker not wearing the protective helmet required by law.
With around 20,000 accidents a year, Belgium’s building sites are among the most dangerous in Europe. The official number last year was about 15,000, but that figure takes no account of temporary workers. In 15% of cases, the accident led to a fatality or a lasting invalidity for the worker concerned.
“I’m in charge of a firm with a dozen or so workers, and have to admit they sometimes forget to wear a helmet,” said Peter Ceyssens. “Compared to larger firms, checks are not as tough.” His company suffered two serious accidents in recent years.
Brepoels, meanwhile is specialised in security surveillance, developed the camera system, and the two companies joined forces.
But builders’ unions are having none of it. Jan Staal, a spokesperson for the socialist union ABVV, said the measure would be “a breach of privacy, and not permitted by law. If the cameras come in, we will file a complaint and send in inspectors.”
The Christian union ACV, on the other hand, is “not opposed to the cameras, which they say will improve safety, particularly in small companies.
Meanwhile the Construction Union, which represents small businesses in the industry, expressed caution. “It’s up to the business owner, the head of the site or the shift foreman to make sure the workers are aware of the need for safety, including wearing a helmet,” said managing director Jean-Pierre Waeytens. “It’s one thing to install cameras against theft. But using cameras to check up on your own people continuously is a step too far.”