Construction companies across the UK are being warned that the second phase of a targeted inspection initiative by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is now underway.
The inspections which are aimed at raising health and safety standards across the construction industry follow the publication of data which reveals that the sector still has a long way to go to reduce deaths and serious injuries in the workplace.
According to the latest HSE figures, 43 workers were fatally injured in 2015/16, and an estimated ten times that number died from construction-related illness, with a further 65,000 self-reported non-fatal injuries.
HSE is now calling on construction contractors and clients to avoid adding to the grim statistics by doing all they can to manage well-known risks.
In addition to hazards such as falls from height, the campaign will focus on control of harmful dusts including respirable silica from concrete, brick and stone, asbestos and wood dust, as well as structural safety, materials handling, good order and welfare provision.
HSE points to the mis-conception that health issues cannot be controlled in construction, stating that harmful dust, whether silica or wood, is a serious issue and can be managed effectively with the correct design, equipment and training.
During the first phase of the initiative earlier this year, HSE inspections resulted in action being taken in almost half of visits.
HSE’s Chief Inspector of Construction, Peter Baker, commented: “In phase one of this campaign HSE’s inspectors found lots of good examples of small sites working safely and protecting workers health from exposure to harmful dusts, proving it can be done. My message to smaller businesses is don’t wait for an accident or a visit from an HSE inspector – learn from the success of others and act now.
“Nearly half of construction fatal accidents and injuries reported to HSE involved refurbishment work.
“Some small refurbishment sites continue to cut corners and not properly protect their workers resulting in an unacceptable number of deaths and injuries each year.”
Lara Murray, an Associate Solicitor and health and safety legal expert, said: “HSE’s inspection crackdown should be viewed as a wakeup call to all construction and sub-contracting firms.
“It is an opportunity to review health and safety procedures and risk assessments to ensure that both your employees and members of the public are properly protected. Ultimately, a safe working environment also leads to greater profitability, due to a reduction in downtime and less likelihood of facing a HSE fine or other sanctions.”
For more information on drafting workplace safety guidance and conducting risk assessments which are compliant and up to date, please contact us.