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Persson reported over safety failings

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12:05 CEST+02:00
Prime minister Göran Persson and his wife Anitra Steen, who is head of Systembolaget, could be prosecuted for breaking Swedish health and safety laws. They are accused of not having followed regulations governing the protection of workers from accidents in the building of their new house in Sörmland.

The prime ministerial couple's construction project near Båven lake has prompted an investigation by the authorities. The Swedish Work Environment Authority (SWEA) in Linköping has recently uncovered several health and safety failings.

A report on the suspected breaches of the work environment legislation has been sent to the prosecutor in Eskilstuna, reported Expressen.

"The project is of such a scale that a preliminary report about the construction should have been submitted before the work began," said Dan Holmquist at SWEA to TT.

"That has not happened. What's more, there's no work environment plan and that is the biggest failing."

According to Holmquist, the proprietor - in this case Persson and Steen - is responsible for producing a full plan of safety in the workplace.

"It involves making an assessment of the risks of an accident in such a big workplace as this. The point is to prevent accidents," Holmquist explained.

Persson said he was surprised by the SWEA's complaint. The fact that he and Steen had not put together a safety plan was a simple oversight, he said.

"A workplace safety plan is naturally something that should be drawn up, that is completely clear, but I didn't have the expertise to foresee that this sort of thing had to be done," Persson said.

Asked by news agency TT whether as prime minister he should have known the rules, he replied.

"I should know everything, but I am also a human being and it is not impossible that occasionally one misses things. We will have to see what the consequences of this will be."

He said that he would make no other comment on the incident.

"I want to wait and see what the prosecutors do. It's not for me to comment on things that are going on in the judicial process. That's a principle I intend to abide by," he said.

The SWEA inspection was prompted by a newspaper picture of the building project which showed that there were insufficient safety measures being taken. Ladders, for example, were leaning incorrectly.

Persson has been given until April 13th to respond to the failings and SWEA said on Thursday that it still had not heard from the prime minister.

Göran Persson's brother also risks legal action, since it is his building form which is carrying out the work.

The fact that one of the issues was the lack of a workplace safety plan meant that SWEA had no choice but to report it to the prosecutor. The case has fallen to chief prosecutor Lars Lundin in Eskilstuna, who will decide next week whether or not to pursue legal action.

"This type of case isn't very common," Lundin told TT.

Persson and Steen risk fines if the case proceeds.

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