News - Construction News

40% of construction sites are putting workers at risk

Nearly half of construction sites fail HSE spot-checks.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is urging managers of construction sites ensure their sites are safe and have the basic health and safety measures in place. The call to action comes after a month long inspection by the Executive found that 40% of sites are failing to prevent workers’ risk.

Nearly half of the repair and refurbishment sites inspected had unacceptable conditions and were demonstrating dangerous practices. HSE inspectors found conditions at 1 in 5 sites so unacceptable that formal enforcement action was required. Many of the issues uncovered by inspectors could have been easily prevented with straightforward management and planning.

The HSE were visiting the sites to put an additional focus on the health risks for workers and 35% of the notices served involved asbestos management, failure to control exposure to harmful dusts, noise and vibration, and insufficient welfare.

The largest area of concern was however for people working at height and once again the HSE found evidence of failing to provide basic safety measure for these workers. Some 42% of the noticed served were done so 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 construction union UCATT have commented on the incentive, citing the results found at construction sites were ‘appalling’ for the industry.

UCATT General Secretary Steve Murphy said: “These findings are simply appalling. Time after time employers are putting workers in danger. The HSE inspections only touch a tiny fraction of construction sites and most construction workers never see an HSE inspector unless a major accident has occurred.”

Mr Murphy added: “The HSE is uncovering basic and straightforward safety breaches. It is imperative that far greater emphasis is applied to uncovering dangerous construction practices and prosecuting the guilty. Construction employers will never improve safety unless they fear being caught.”

The HSE has a set of instructional film clips regarding working safely with dust which can be viewed on its Youtube page.