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October 31, 2009

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LA inspectors to help target refurbishment sector

Local-authority inspectors will be drafted in to help inspect

small-scale construction work, as part of two pilot initiatives planned

for 2009/10.

Part of the Local Authority Construction Engagement project (LACE), the pilots are part of a strategy to encourage councils to contribute to improving standards of construction health and safety.

Concerns have been voiced for some time about the poor health and safety standards of companies involved in the refurbishment sector. A blitz by HSE inspectors earlier this year highlighted persistent bad practice and the Work and Pensions Select Committee believes more must be done to address the sector’s high levels of accidents and fatalities, particularly among those working for small businesses.

The Committee also endorses the conclusion reached by Rita Donaghy in her report earlier this year on reducing deaths in the construction sector that building controls could provide a mechanism for improving site safety.

The Government has now issued a response to the Committee’s follow-up report on workplace health and safety. Published on 26 October, it explained that the two pilot initiatives would see flexibly-warranted local-authority inspectors checking small-scale construction sites, where refurbishment or domestic work is being carried out and where SMEs are particularly active.

It also pointed out that the appointment of 24 fixed-term inspectors to the HSE’s construction division would bring “a welcome temporary boost to resources for two years” and that they would “spend a significant part of their time visiting small sites to improve the standards on them”.

In response to the Committee’s approval of Rita Donaghy’s proposal on building controls, and her recommendation to extend the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Regulations to include construction, the Government promised that these would be addressed in a specific response later in the year.

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