External contractors removed from Dawson Building refurbishment after reports of “catcalling”

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Some external contractors working on the refurbishment of Durham University’s Dawson Building have been removed following reports of “catcalling passersby”, according to Durham’s Archaeology Department, which occupies the building. 

In an email to staff and students on 15th April 2024, Department said that it had been made aware of “inappropriate behaviour” from external contractors, which they called “entirely unacceptable.”

John Sayers, Managing Director at Hodgson Sayers, the company responsible for the refurbishment, told Palatinate, “I would like to take this opportunity to apologise not only on behalf of Hodgson Sayers, but also personally as the Managing Director to the student(s) for the abhorrent behaviour of the individual(s) employed by the subcontracted scaffolding company we procured to undertake the works at the Dawson Building.”

The Archaeology Department, namely Emily Roper, Department Manager, Tom Moore, Head of Department, and Beth Upex, Senior Technical Manager, formally raised this complaint to the site manager. 

Since then, the responsible contractors have been removed from the site and have been given a formal warning. 

Hodgson Sayers confirmed that the individuals involved were removed from the site and that the comments have been investigated alongside a non-conformance report recording the incident.

“We requested an urgent response from TIS Scaffolding, the employer of the individuals involved,” Mr Sayers explained, “We can confirm that the individuals involved were removed from site and will not be allowed back on site.”

Palatinate has contacted TIS Scaffolding for comment, but is yet to receive a response.

“This type of incident is not something we treat lightly and we have given the University our assurances that we will ensure this does not happen again”

John Sayers

The Dawson Building overlooks the Bill Bryson Library, a particularly busy part of Durham’s campus, with constant foot traffic throughout the day. 

Mr Sayers told Palatinate that the company had worked with Durham University buildings before, including the Bill Bryson Library roof, “and are fully aware of our responsibilities while working in these locations.”

Posters have since been displayed around the site, “advising” students on “how to report anything of concern.”

Hodsgon Sayers have also taken steps to ensure that this behaviour does not happen again: they have set up “Toolbox talks” with the remainder of employees on site, and have changed the Site Manager to an employee with “more experience and training”, who will meet the team daily in morning briefings. They also told Palatinate that the Contract Manager will “review and discuss weekly”, whilst the SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environment, and Quality) Manager will “undertake regular audits relating to the subject.”

“Hodgson Sayers are an equal opportunities employer promoting equality, fairness, inclusion, and respect, so we are appalled by the report of this type of behaviour,” Mr Sayers told Palatinate, “This type of incident is not something we treat lightly and we have given the University our assurances that we will ensure this does not happen again.”

“As a business it is incredibly frustrating for us, that despite policies and procedures and the reiteration of codes of conduct at inductions and reminders to our employees and contractors about their behaviour, a minority of individuals can act with disregard to cause so much distress.”

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