Safety crackdown has clients in its sights

Nearly half of refurbishment sites targeted by HSE during an inspections blitz were found to be operating below acceptable standards.

The figure – 46 per cent of the 1,908 visited – was the result of a month-long enforcement campaign carried out, for the first time, under HSE’s new Construction, Design and Management Regulations 2015 (CDM).

The powers enabled another first when clients and designers were served with improvement notices, although HSE could not say how many.

It was revealed, however, that 260 improvement notices compelled site teams to draw up plans to boost safety. And a total of 432 prohibition notices meant specific onsite activities were stopped immediately during the September-to-October crackdown.

Risks to those working at height was found to be a particular problem.

“It is disappointing that some small refurbishment sites are still cutting corners and not properly protecting their workers,” said Peter Baker, HSE’s chief inspector of construction.

“Falls from heights are the most common killer in the industry but we still found workers put at risk to save minutes on the job, believing it wouldn’t happen to them.

“The misconception that health issues cannot be controlled is simply not true and ruining people’s lives. Harmful dust, whether silica or wood, is a serious issue and can be managed effectively with the right design, equipment and training. “Health effects may not be immediate but the ultimate impact on workers and their families can be devastating.”

However, the inspections also found examples of good practice, with Mr Baker adding: “Larger construction sites accepted the challenge a few years ago and have made big improvements, which all of the industry can learn from.

“My message to smaller businesses is don’t wait for an accident or visit from an inspector before you make the change, but act now and learn from your colleagues’ example.”

Lara Murray, Palmers’ specialist in health and safety compliance, said: “The first consideration for any business in the sector must be to guard against loss of life or injury. Unfortunately, it remains the case that there are still those who do not take the risks to workers and other visitors to their sites seriously. If they do not prioritise safety then it is likely they also disregard how actionable breaches can be. It will be a huge shock when they find out. Whether you are the builder, or, as is the case now, client and designer, expert guidance really is the best step towards addressing these issues. For more information about our services, please contact us.”