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April 6, 2010

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HSE construction blitz uncovers poor site safety

Almost a quarter of construction sites visited by the HSE during a month-long inspection blitz failed safety checks.

HSE inspectors carried out checks on 2414 contractors at 2014 construction sites across Britain as part of an intensive inspection campaign in March. It followed similar initiatives carried out in 2008 and 2009.

Focusing on refurbishment and roofing work, inspectors turned up unannounced and examined whether:

  • jobs that involve working at height had been identified and properly planned to ensure that appropriate precautions were in place;
  • equipment was installed, maintained and used properly;
  • sites were well organised, to avoid trips and falls;
  • walkways and stairs were free from obstructions; and
  • work areas were clear of unnecessary materials and waste.

A total of 691 enforcement notices was issued at 470 sites, with inspectors giving orders for work to be stopped immediately in 359 cases, either for unsafe work being carried out at height, or where sites lacked ‘good order’. The majority of all notices issued related to unsafe work being carried out at height.

Two years ago, during a similar blitz, inspectors stopped work immediately in around 300 cases owing to the risk of death or serious injury present on those sites. It prompted an outburst from HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger highlighting “the blatant disregard for basic health and safety precautions on refurbishment sites across Great Britain”.

Commenting on the latest initiative, HSE chief inspector for construction Philip White said: “While it is encouraging that many small construction firms have got their act together and are giving health and safety the priority it needs, the fact that our inspectors needed to take enforcement action on almost a quarter of sites, and on a similar proportion of contractors, is a matter of serious concern.”

He continued: “There is still a small number of employers or contractors who continue to put their own and other people’s health and safety at risk. This is unacceptable. I want to make it clear to these operators that we will not hesitate to take action where standards of health and safety are endangering workers’ lives and livelihoods.”


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