Construction sites inspection blitz reveals slight progress
Almost one in five construction sites failed to satisfy inspectors during a national initiative of safety checks aimed at improving safety standards in the sector.
Of the 50 fatalities in construction in 2010-11, 27 (54 per cent) were in the refurbishment, repair and maintenance sector. In direct response to these statistics and the increased risks associated with this type of construction work, the annual safety inspection blitz, which is now in its fifth year, specifically targeted sites where repair work was being carried out.
Over the course of a month, HSE inspectors visited a total of 3237 sites – significantly more than last year’s total of 2128 – and saw 4092 contractors. The focus was on high-risk activity, including working at height and ensuring sites were clean and tidy with clear access routes.
Overall, practices at 581 sites were deemed to be unsafe, leading to a total of 870 enforcement notices issued; in 603 instances work had to stop immediately. Falls from height were responsible for nearly half of enforcement notices served, but this is a slight improvement on previous years.
Philip White, HSE chief inspector of construction, said: “It is encouraging that inspectors found a slight improvement in standards and small construction firms are taking safety seriously when carrying out refurbishment work.
“But this is just a snapshot, and the number of notices served for unsafe work at height is still unacceptable, particularly when the safety measures are well-known and straightforward to implement. Too many contractors continue to put their own or other people’s lives at risk and we will not hesitate to take action where standards are not met.”
Construction union UCATT said any decrease in dangerous working practices on sites is “good news” but it lamented that fact that serious failings, which are potentially putting workers’ lives at risk, are still being found.
Commented general secretary Steve Murphy: “With so many construction sites failing to meet fundamental safety standards it demonstrates that the HSE needs greater resources in order to ensure workplace safety for construction workers throughout the whole year.”
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