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November 21, 2008

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HSE denies closure of construction committee

The HSE has rejected reports that it is planning to scrap its construction safety advisory body, CONIAC, and transfer its activities to the Strategic Forum for Construction.

In a statement, the Executive denied any plans to “subsume CONIAC within the Strategic Forum for Construction” but said a paper would be considered at a meeting on 27 November to discuss its future role.

The body was originally set up to advise the former Health and Safety Commission, but the merger of the HSC and the HSE in April has prompted a review of its role and accountabilities.

The HSE said: “It is recognised that there may be some duplication between CONIAC and other industry representative bodies, and the paper invites comments on how the roles of CONIAC can be more clearly distinguished from those of other industry bodies.”

Its stance should relieve construction union UCATT, which views any transfer as a retrograde step. A spokesperson told SHP: “CONIAC reports to the HSE directly, whereas in the Strategic Forum, health and safety is discussed as a sub-committee, so you’re going down the food chain. But we also believe that CONIAC needs to be more relevant to industry.”

The Civil Engineering Contractors’ Association (CECA) — a member of the Construction Confederation — echoed the union’s view, arguing: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!” In a letter sent to Safety minister, Lord McKenzie, it said transferring CONIAC’s role to the Forum would “affect small, specialised contractors, who may find themselves unable to feed back on how important health and safety policy could be in practice”.

The Construction Clients’ Group (CCG) welcomed the review but wants to see an exercise carried out to compare the work already conducted by the Strategic Forum’s Health and Safety Group and the committee.

CCG chief executive, Peter Cunningham, commented: “The outcome of this review needs to result in an activity that continues to have a real impact for the industry and stakeholders throughout the supply chain. Clients are integral to this process, and we welcome their continued involvement in this critical area of activity for the sector.”

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