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February 20, 2009

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HSE gears up for new blitz on refurb sites

Sites across Britain where renovations and maintenance work are

being undertaken are to be targeted as part of a renewed campaign by

the HSE.

The inspection drive, which will kick off on 2 March, follows last year’s spot checks of refurbishment sites, which led HSE chief executive, Geoffrey Podger, to hit out at the sector’s “blatant disregard” for health and safety precautions.

Mike Cross, who leads the HSE’s activities on construction in the refurbishment sector, said inspectors would be targeting three main themes: falls from height; clean, tidy, well-managed sites; and asbestos. In 2007/08, the sector was responsible for over half of construction fatalities, yet it only accounts for about 40 per cent of the construction market.

“Our aim is to visit 1500 sites in March and we may also visit other contractors,” explained Cross. “We will be looking for poorly-performing sites. This is not a sampling exercise to find out whether sites are good, bad, or indifferent.”

He did not put a concrete figure on the number of inspectors taking part in the blitz, but confirmed that at least 100 would be involved. “We sincerely hope that people will have sharpened up their act and we don’t have to use our enforcement powers. But our experience tells us that there is a lot of poor practice out there.”

Inspections carried out in March last year resulted in work being stopped on nearly one in three sites, with a total of 395 enforcement notices served. But Cross pointed out that the HSE is unlikely to revisit these sites, as many of them would no longer be carrying out construction work.

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