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October 23, 2013

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Nearly half of construction sites fail safety checks



Falls risk during soffit replacement workThe HSE has revealed that over 1,100 construction sites failed a safety check during the organisation’s month-long ‘safer sites’ initiative in September.
During the nationwide campaign, the HSE visited 2,607 sites where refurbishment or repair work was taking place. Inspectors found that basic safety standards were not being met on 1,105 sites.
The findings revealed that: 644 sites had practices so poor, enforcement action was required to protect workers. 539 prohibition notices were served ordering activities to stop immediately, and 414 improvement notices issued, requiring standards to improve.
Heather Bryant, HSE’s chief inspector of construction said: “It is disappointing to find a significant number of sites falling below acceptable health and safety standards, where our inspectors encountered poor practice this often went hand in hand with a lack of understanding. 
The most common problems identified included failing to protect workers during activities at height, exposure to harmful dust and inadequate welfare facilities. 
David Urpeth, a partner and expert in workplace injury at Irwin Mitchell said: “The high number of construction sites found to be unsafe during this initative is simply unacceptable. The building industry is one of the most dangerous sectors for employees, yet the findings of this campaign show that lessons are clearly not being learned by the business.
“The dangers of failing to adequately protect workers cannot be overstated, as we regularly see cases when victims of work accidents have suffered serious, life-changing injuries as a result of basic failings such as a lack of training or vital equipment.” 
Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union UCATT said: “These figures expose the truth about construction, which is that many employers are prepared to gamble with workers lives rather than ensure their sites are safe.”
He added that the most common problems are “basic safety requirements”, and that the campaign demonstrated why the HSE should be given resources to increase their level of inspections. 
For more about the initiative, visit

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Gordon Fuller
Gordon Fuller
8 years ago

Steve Murphy got it right, HSE inspections need to be constant not periodic spot checks!

It would be interesting to know how many of the non compliant and unsafe sites were represented by a safety manager or consultant who believed they were doing enough or were ignored by employers.

This isn’t news and I am surprised it was less than 50% non compliant, the root causes are multiple and will not improve with changes to CDM. It will not change until employers know they can not get away it!

John Bartlett
John Bartlett
8 years ago

I am not surprised with the numbers. Looking at the pictures it would seem that works carried out at domestic properties by the smaller builder is the problem area. No surprise there as I’m sure price dictated by the householder ensured that short cuts would be taken. I also suspect that much of the work was cash in hand! This will always be a problem I’m afraid.

Mark Light
Mark Light
8 years ago

Some good observations on this subject and figures not surpising, all inspections should be constant & ad-hoc to ensure accurate account of activities.

Would it not help if all Directors/Managers in construction companies had to attend by law a CDM/Safety course focusing on responsibilities before company was allowed to operate? As CDM always applies.

Tender stage is also vital as client must provide, time, money & resources to allow project to be carried out safely, not just cheapest price.

Mark Light
Mark Light
8 years ago

Hello Rob

I totally agree cash is always king, even in our business….without it we can’t run and I do sympathise with your friend however it is him that will end up in hospital or worse due to unsafe working.

On my previous post it says Client/Director/Manager must attend courses prior to operating, I also believe all projects should be notified, with a dumbed down version to local authorities for smaller jobs.

Going home at end of working day is my objective here.

Rob Slater
Rob Slater
8 years ago

Mark, the problem is that cash is king on these jobs. I have a friend who is a jobbing builder who tells me he can lose a job for a £5 difference. Every day we all see the most horrendous safety breaches on these sites but until the client is held to account to ensure that the works are carried out with safety factored in, nothing will change.