Maintenance & Construction Safety in Inspectors’ spotlight


All firms involved in construction and building maintenance must be on the lookout during February and March 2012 when HSE are mounting what they call ‘an intensive inspection initiative’ in this sector.

As the number of new builds has shrunk due to the economic downturn, most builders are keeping busy where they can with refurbishment work: many owners who cannot move are choosing to renovate their houses or industrial buildings. This is why the Inspectors are focusing on the risks associated with refurbishing.

The on-site health and safety risks can be even greater than those involved with new constructions (and the trade is already one of Britain’s most hazardous) – working at height safely can be difficult on existing roofs that may be in a bad state, and this is always the most hazardous activity in building (5 accidents of this kind occur daily). There is not the luxury of a clean fresh site. And above all, there is commonly a need to safely remove asbestos.

Consequently, more workers die (54% of the construction total) when doing repairs, maintaining and refurbishing than when building on a green field site.

Areas under Inspection

Notice has been given that Inspectors will be looking out for failure to maintain ‘Good Order’ – the keeping clean of sites, the removal of waste and the management of materials and walkways to avoid trips and falls.

They will be expecting to see the use of tower scaffolds and mobile platforms (properly used and maintained by qualified contractors) rather than ladders wherever possible, to reduce working at height dangers. Pre-planned systems of work must have been worked out and communicated to all involved. (Note that HSE is also targeting mobile elevating work platforms for special attention, so ensure that these are maintained up to their specified schedules and that all operatives have current certificates).

And as regards asbestos, this most dangerous material must be surveyed where found, and the removal of high-risk forms of asbestos must be carried out by licensed contractors. Lower risk types require personal protective clothing to be worn and steps taken to minimise the spread of debris to protect both workers and the public. Special waste disposal regulations apply, and must be adhered to.

All of this makes it understandable that the regulators should be following through on their threats to target the industry this year. They make it clear that action will be taken against non-conforming sites. Do not forget also that from April, this action will also be chargeable to the company that is responsible for the alleged breach of the regulations. This all undeniably adds to the burden faced by the managers of cash-squeezed firms who cannot afford to employ dedicated safety personnel.

For such companies, the ability to call upon flexible, pro-active support from McCormack Benson Health & Safety will be a great relief, knowing that the necessary risk assessments will be carried out by their experienced health and safety consultants and updated correctly; and that the necessary actions will be monitored and followed up.