A British construction worker killed in a fall at a stadium being built for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was using “potentially lethal equipment”, an inquest has heard.
Zachary Cox, who was born in Johannesburg but later lived in Hove and London, fell 130ft (40 metres) from a platform at Khalifa International Stadium, in the Qatari capital of Doha, on 19 January last year.
British coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley found that Cox died from brain and spinal injuries suffered in the fall, which followed the implementation of new work practices that she branded “inherently unsafe”, Arab News reports.
The accident occurred when lever hoist equipment failed, causing part of the platform on which Cox was working to collapse. As Cox fell, his harness also broke, causing him to hit the ground head first. He died later in hospital.
His colleague Graham Vance, from South Africa, was initially arrested over the incident and held in Qatar for ten months, but was later cleared of any wrongdoing, The Daily Telegraph reports.
The inquest heard that extra hoists were brought in to speed up the construction after problems with some of the 1.8 tonne metal platforms had to be fixed, putting the project behind schedule.
Hamilton-Deeley said: “The site managers at the stadium knew or should have known that they were effectively requiring a group of their workers to rely on potentially lethal equipment.
“[The new system] was chaotic, unprofessional, unthinking and downright dangerous.”
In a statement released after the inquest, Cox’s sisters-in-law Ella Joseph and Hazel Mayes demanded “reassurance that those responsible for making the decisions that ultimately led to Zac’s death will be held to account and justice will be served”.
This is not the first time health and safety at Qatar World Cup construction sites has been called into question.
In 2015, The Washington Post claimed there had been as many as 1,200 deaths at World Cup sites in Qatar – a highly disputed figure that has not been updated since. Campaigners fear the total death toll could reach 4,000 before the tournament kicks off, reports the Daily Mirror.
In 2016, Amnesty raised the alarm about conditions for workers refurbishing the stadium, and accused Qatar of using forced labour.
Commenting on Cox’s death, Labour’s shadow sports minister, Rosena Allin-Khan, said: “This kind of incident is becoming all too common… and it’s unacceptable that basic health and safety precautions are not being followed.
“Fifa and the Qatari authorities are putting profit before safety.”
Fifa president Gianni Infantino “should show where his priorities lie, launch an urgent investigation and ensure everything is done to protect workers”, Allin-Khan added, in a statement on the Labour Party website.
Fifa has stated repeatedly that it “deeply regrets” any loss of life connected to stadium construction, while local authorities in Qatar have insisted that the World Cup sites have a good record for worker safety.