In September, inspectors from the Health & Safety Executive made unannounced visits to 2,607 construction sites where refurbishment or repair work was taking place. Of these, 1,100 failed the safety checks.
On 644 of the sites, practices were so poor that enforcement action was necessary to protect workers – with 539 prohibition notices served ordering dangerous activities to stop immediately and 414 improvement notices issued requiring standards to improve.
The most common problems identified included failing to protect workers during activities at height, exposure to harmful dust and inadequate welfare facilities.
HSE chief inspector of construction Heather Bryant 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.
“Through initiatives like this we are able to tackle underlying issues before they become established and we will continue to work with the industry in an effort to drive up standards.
“However those who recklessly endanger the health and lives of their workforce can expect to face tough consequences.”
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.”
Mr Murphy said that HSE should be given more resources to make more site inspections.
“The vast majority of construction sites will not have been inspected as part of this campaign,” he said. “Unless employers have a genuine fear that shoddy safety practices will be exposed, they will continue to cut corners when it comes to safety.”
See David Taylor’s exclusive interview with HSE chief inspector of construction Heather Bryant only in the October issue of The Construction Index magazine. Read the digital version at http://epublishing.theconstructionindex.co.uk/magazine/october2013/
Or to subscribe to your own print copy every month from just £35 a year, see www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/magazine