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April 6, 2011

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Construction deaths rise as cuts are ushered in

The number of deaths in the construction industry rose by around 15 per cent last year, fuelling concerns that the cost-cutting measures being implemented by the HSE will reverse the downward trend of recent years.

The regulator’s head of construction, Philip White, revealed the increase at a conference in London yesterday (5 April) on Safety Schemes in Procurement, indicating that competence – or lack of it – was “clearly a feature” in many of the fatalities.

Speaking to SHP after the event, Mr White emphasised that the figures are completely provisional and unverified at this early stage (the final figures for the 2010/2011 period will not be published until the end of this year) but HSE monitoring of the reports coming into it between April 2010 and March 2011 indicated a rise of around 15 per cent on last year’s low of 42 deaths.

Mr White said the rise cannot be seen as statistically significant yet, but the HSE “will be keeping an eye on the trend, and if it goes up again over the next 12 months, we will have to look closely at the causes of that”.

According to construction union UCATT, the cuts to the HSE’s budget and subsequent easing off in inspection and enforcement activities will not help. Acting general secretary George Guy told SHP: “The increase in fatalities underlines just how dangerous construction remains, and this increase in deaths has come before there has been any meaningful recovery in the industry. Following all previous recessions there has been a marked increase in construction fatalities, as new, inexperienced companies and workers enter the industry.

“Given the cuts being faced by the HSE and the existing dearth of inspections and enforcement activity, it is all too probable that deaths will continue to rise in the industry.”

Philip White was adamant that construction remains a priority industry for the regulator, and that there will be no drop in the number of front-line construction inspectors, other than those coming to the end of fixed-term contracts this summer. He admitted, however, that now that the first period under the spending review is underway, “we will need to see how we manage over the next 12 months”.

The focus during that period, he said, will be on the smaller operators in the industry, “as that is where the biggest problems still lie”.
 

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Adrianboulter
Adrianboulter
10 years ago

The HSE has spent too many years and vast amounts of resources on focussing on the health and safety standards of the larger construction companies.
Most of the larger construction companies in the UK get more visits per year than the smaller to medium companies because most of them can pay the costs of fines being issued.
How many times do we pass small sites and projects where safety standards are almost non-existant and say ‘We won’t get away with that’.
The HSE must be fair to all.

Andrew
Andrew
10 years ago

The current CDM Regulations are not fit for purposes and should be scrapped. Needless paperwork and pointless invented new professions do not save lives. We need to get back to basic safety. The focus should be on basic safety within the clients team and safety on site.

Until every principle contractor and client is required to have a Chartered Safety & Health Pactitioner appointed with power to veto and stop dangerous construction the industry will remain the highest killer in the UK.

Elloboda
Elloboda
10 years ago

whilst i agree with the comments brought forward i still carnt get out of my head that mans greed for money and keeping up with the jones next door in the incompetent building companys and construction companys. that they are putting the lives of the people that they employe are at risk on a daily basis from injury and death. so i say the goverment to invset in more hse inspectors not less. as everybody says the common sense approach.

Major
Major
10 years ago

Tim – What is a necessary risk???

Martin
Martin
10 years ago

Ahh, that would be the “common sense” Dave Cameron is always talking about…..

Mschilling
Mschilling
10 years ago

It is unfair to lay the blame with the regulator or the government here. The construction companies should be taking a look at themselves, money is tight and their priority is profit. They are responsible for ensuring safety on sites. The HSE’s job is to monitor them, not take on their duties.
SHP would be wise to be a little more objective in it’s headline writing; it is starting to adopt the tabloids’ preferred ‘shock, horror’ headlines. It represents our profession, not our political view.

Ray
Ray
10 years ago

I agree the CDM Regs are an ineffective method of regulating the construction industry. However, that is partly due to poor enforcement of those regulations. Without enforcement generally, there is little motivation for organisations to abide by health and safety regulations.

The construction industry is client driven, yet in my experience the client is often more at fault than anyone when it comes to breaching the CDM Regs!

Richard
Richard
10 years ago

And I think we will see further increases as the industry grows over the coming years.

Stuart514
Stuart514
10 years ago

I agree with Mick and Tim also some of the responsibility remains with the clients that choose the cheapest tender for a company that lacks experience i.e. a company with a history of building leasure centres is chosen to build bridges.
Wages is a large concern and it is a topic hot on the workforce agenda, how do we improve the H&S culture where those that work for less come from a background of companies with H&S low on their agenda.

Tcoles
Tcoles
10 years ago

Personnally I do not think the HSE cuts will have any major effect on the number of fatalities in the construction industry. The true cause I belive is the effect of the recent recession and the general trend over the last 10 years to beat prices down. Having worked in the industry for 40 years at all levels I can attest that most skilled trades who work on price are earning less now than in the eighties. This leads to them taking unnecessary risks just to earn a living. 500 chars not enough