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February 14, 2011

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Inspectors begin blitz on refurbishment sector

The HSE is undertaking a nationwide round of inspections on construction sites in a bid to reduce the toll of death and injury in the sector.

The blitz, which is now in its fifth year, will focus heavily on refurbishment and maintenance activities. The latest annual health and safety statistics revealed that nearly three-quarters of the 42 construction deaths last year (2009/10) related to these types of tasks.

During the unannounced visits – which start today (14 February) – HSE inspectors will check that sites are managing work at height safely, that they are in good order to avoid trips and falls, and that walkways and stairs are free from obstruction. They will also monitor whether equipment is correctly installed, maintained and used.

In March last year, inspectors visited 2414 contractors at 2014 sites across Britain. A total of 691 enforcement notices was issued at 470 sites, with inspectors issuing orders to stop work immediately in 359 cases – either because of unsafe work at height, or because sites lacked good order.

HSE’s chief inspector of construction, Philip White, said: “This will be the fifth year that we have run the inspection initiative across Britain and we anticipate that there will be examples of both good and bad practice – those where employers are taking all the measures they can to protect their workers, and those where safety is way down the list of priorities.

“A lax attitude to health and safety in one of the more dangerous industries is not acceptable, especially when many of the incidents are completely avoidable by taking common-sense actions and precautions. As we’ve demonstrated in previous years, we will not hesitate to take action if we find poor practice that is putting the lives of workers at risk.”

The construction-site crackdown will also enable HSE inspectors to highlight the dangers of asbestos. The Executive was recently criticised for apparently shelving plans to run an award-winning asbestos awareness campaign aimed at construction workers and other tradespeople.

The HSE said it was taking stock of the campaign, and stressed that it would “continue to make tackling asbestos a priority, both in terms of our communications activity and our enforcement work”.

Commenting on how the refurbishment blitz would help raise awareness of the risks of asbestos, White said: “This year, as part of ensuring risks from asbestos are properly managed, we will also be checking that, where appropriate, asbestos surveys have been carried out prior to any refurbishment work.

“Many workers believe that, because asbestos has been banned as a building material, it’s no longer a threat to them, but that simply isn’t true. Any premises built or refurbished before 2000 could contain asbestos.”

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13 years ago

the lad working on the garages with the council you would expect that of sub contractors not the council itself. but being on top and throwing the asbestos down into a skip is not on . i have worked on demolishing jobs in the past and some lads work for the day not the future. 1 proper ppe worn. 2 was ths asbestos bagged. 3 was it a inclosed skip. i do not think so. a lot of councils are the same all over the country. it staggers how much some of these bosses are getting paid.