The HSE has completed a recent inspection blitz of over 3,000 construction sites across the UK and specifically focused in on the maintenance and repair sector. During the inspections they saw over 4000 contractors and focused on high risk jobs such as work at height.
Around a sixth of the sites visited were deemed to be unsafe by the HSE and they issued 870 enforcement notices and in 603 instances stopped work immediately.
The HSE has since indicated that the inspections showed a slight improvement on safety standards; however they were damming about the number of notices served for work at height failings despite the fact that suitable safety measures are well known and are easy to implement.
The number of inspections was 50% up on the previous year and the unions have called for the HSE to be given greater resources to ensure safety in construction is monitored throughout the whole year. In the last reporting year construction accounted for 50 fatalities; of which 27 were in the maintenance and repair sector.
We know from working with construction clients that in the current economic climate the construction sector is being pushed on price and that margins are regularly being squeezed. This will lead to some contractors taking shortcuts in health & safety which shows up in the HSE inspection figures.
However the arguments that “we can`t afford to implement robust safety measures” won`t stand up when the HSE come calling and the costs are often much higher once this has happened. The truth is that in many companies what needs to be done doesn’t need to cost much – it’s just a need to establish simple safety systems that will keep people and the business safe.