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40% of construction sites fail to properly protect workers

The HSE is urging the construction industry to ensure basic health and safety measures are in place after a month long inspection initiative found 40 per cent of sites failing to properly protect workers.

Unacceptable conditions and dangerous practices were found at nearly half of the 1,748 repair and refurbishment sites visited by HSE inspectors, with 1 in 5 sites so poor, formal enforcement action was required. Many of the issues found could have been easily prevented with simple, straightforward management and planning.

The focus of the initiative was on health risks and 35 per cent of the notices served were for issues such as management of asbestos, failure to control exposure to harmful dusts, noise and vibration, and insufficient welfare.

However failure to provide basic safety measures for people working at height was once again the most common issue found by Inspectors with 42 per cent of all enforcement notices served for this activity.

HSE’s Chief of Construction Philip White said:

“These results show that whilst the majority of employers in the refurbishment sector are getting it right, a significant part of the industry is seriously failing its workers.

“The inability to properly plan working at height continues to be a major issue, despite well-known safety measures being straightforward to implement.  It is just not acceptable that Inspectors had to order work to stop immediately on over 200 occasions because of dangerous practices.

“We also find health is often overlooked as its implications are not immediately visible, however the effects of uncontrolled exposure to deadly dusts such as asbestos and silica can be irreversible. We urge industry to ensure the most basic of measures such as use of protective equipment and dust suppression methods are put in place to help protect the future health of workers.

“We need to continue to educate industry through initiatives like this and encourage a change in behaviour on small projects where over half the industry’s fatal accidents still occur and many workers become seriously ill.”

The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk