HSE Swoop on Construction Sites


On 3rd July, contractors were subjected to an unannounced spot inspection by HSE Inspectors, covering 22 building sites in North-East London’s North Hackney and the South Tottenham area in Haringey.

The troubling result was that nearly half of the (mostly refurbishment) construction projects failed these health and safety spot checks.

A working platform without safety protection
A working platform without safety protection, several metres above ground (source: HSE)

A working platform without safety protection, several metres above ground (source: HSE)

Within the 22 locations, the Inspectors felt that enforcement action was necessary at nine of them, and a total of twelve Notices were served in all. They served six Prohibition Notices (that required dangerous practices to be stopped immediately), and six Improvement Notices (which said that safety improvements must be made). One of the sites was completely closed by the HSE due to what they described as ‘exceptionally hazardous conditions’.

Five of the Prohibition Notices were due to unsafe work at height, as per the example pictured here. Training and welfare issues were responsible for all of the Improvement Notices.

Failings of the contractors

What were the main problems that the Inspectors found?

  • A lack of basic precautions, especially no edge protection that would help prevent falls from height
  • Failure to properly plan the works
  • Site managers that were insufficiently trained
  • Workers’ welfare facilities being inadequate

Mike Williams, Principal Inspector for the HSE’s construction division in North and East London clearly has construction safety at the top of his agenda, so building firms (and especially small contractors) can expect to be in the firing line, judging by his comments:

Construction remains one of Britain’s most dangerous industries and fatal incidents across London have shown how devastating they can be. We are very concerned at the number of small sites that are failing to take the most basic precautions to protect workers and members of the public. Good health and safety on construction sites is a legal requirement and we will continue to clamp down on dangerous practices or poor standards until the message gets through. Contractors must properly plan their work and protect their workers from risks such as falls from height or structures collapsing.

The HSE published their injury figures this month for fatalities in various leading industries for the last survey year of 2011/12. This showed that there were 49 fatal injuries to construction workers, a slight reduction from the 50 deaths reported in 2010/11.

It is abundantly clear that health and safety consultants need to do their part in helping contractors to get up to the mark. There is no way that small businesses can afford their own in-house specialists. But on the other hand there are firms that will claim to help you meet your obligations and will in practice just lead you through a round of form filling. For a proper bespoke, hands-on team of safety consultants, call the experts – McCormack Benson Health & Safety.