The Health and Safety Executive announced on 18 February 2013 that it would be launching a crackdown on poor health and safety practices on construction sites in Britain.
Between 2011 and 2012, it is reported that 49 workers were killed on construction sites in Britain and 2,884 major injuries were reported. Philip White, HSE Chief Inspector of Construction, announced that “death and injury continue to result from avoidable accidents” and that strong action would be taken to both prevent such deaths and injuries and to clamp down on businesses that are unnecessarily placing their workers at risk of accidents.
The Health and Safety Executive have therefore announced that they will be undertaking a month-long initiative (in February and March 2013) to crack down on poor health and safety practices on construction sites. This will involve unannounced visits to construction sites which are viewed as the most risky – primarily those where refurbishment and repair works are taking place. The purpose of this initiative is to encourage businesses to improve health and safety practices and to punish those businesses which fail to uphold a reasonable standard of health and safety. Inspectors will apparently check for general good order, assess welfare facilities and check whether the appropriate equipment is being used by workers on the construction sites. Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented that “this initiative shows that the HSE is willing to use different tactics to enforce compliance with the health and safety law on construction sites. This can only be a good thing”.
This initiative by the Health and Safety executive follows on from the recent case of a company in Newcastle being fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,195.70 for exposing workers to risks of falling from height and other safety failings at a site in Newcastle city centre. The firm was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive and subsequently prosecuted after an inspector had visited the site on 14 September 2011 and advised the company of its legal obligations relating to the management of the site. The company ignored this advice and when further complaints were made about health and safety standards a further investigation was instigated. This case demonstrates that the HSE will be vigilant in investigating complaints relating to health and safety and that the cost of failing to comply with health and safety best practice may be high – even if there are no deaths or injuries caused by such failings.
The relevant law concerning health and safety on construction sites is to be found in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. Under these regulations the construction site must be a safe place of work (i.e. so far as is reasonably practice access and exit should be suitable and sufficient; and that the place of work, so far as is reasonably practicable) should be kept safe and without risk to the health and safety of any person).
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