An urgent inquiry has been demanded after it was claimed that accidents on the Aberdeen bypass scheme have been far more frequent than transport chiefs admitted.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard branded the allegations “extremely serious” last night and called on the Scottish Government to order a probe into safety during construction of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).
The intervention followed a report in the trade publication, Construction News, which claimed staff had been working up to 70-hour weeks and that some had quit amid fear of ending up “with blood on the floor”.
Documents showed that there were 115 accidents on the AWPR project in 2015, more than half of which were said to be “high potential” events which could have caused fatalities.
The figures compared to the 23 injuries or near misses which Transport Scotland had previously said had occurred on the £745 million project in 2015, which was the first year of the work.
The Scottish Government agency has disputed the interpretation of the figures in the “internal documents”, which were obtained and published by the trade publication.
But Mr Leonard said: “These are extremely serious allegations which must be thoroughly investigated as a matter of urgency by the Scottish Government.
“This is supposed to be a flagship project for the Scottish Government – and so should be founded on a gold standard of health and safety as well as the terms and conditions of workers on the project.”
The report also claimed that the documents showed that the average number of accidents per month between February and July 2015 was 5.2, but that it then more than trebled to 16.8 between August and December of that year.
About a third of the incidents related to machinery hitting electrical cables, telephone wires or water pipes, while many others involved vehicles overturning.
The 37-mile road was due to open in spring this year but the target completion date has now been pushed back to the autumn, following bad weather and the collapse of consortium partner Carillion.
Data previously released by Transport Scotland showed that in 2015 there were 23 injuries or near misses, in 2016 there were 88 and last year there were 84.
Among those injured during the course of the construction of the new road was a contractor who suffered cracked ribs and a torn liver after he was crushed under a half-tonne section of pipe and a worker who was taken to hospital with head injuries after a falling piece of timber cracked his hard hat.
Transport Scotland has said that the “context” in which the accidents data “has been presented is inaccurate and includes assumptions that are not based on fact”.
A spokesman added: “The health and safety of those working on all major infrastructure projects and the surrounding community is of the utmost importance to us. Although the responsibility for the health and safety of workers rests with the contractor, Aberdeen Roads Limited, we have been working with them to enhance health and safety standards across the site.
“The project operates a culture of openness and transparency and the workforce is encouraged to report any event or condition they consider to be unsafe.
“Over the past year, the contractor has reported steady improvements through various reporting mechanisms and we will continue to work with them as the construction of this project nears completion.”