HSE and Building Safety – now a 4-Year Plan


Having recently reviewed what is currently in the Health & Safety Executive’s Construction Division’s sights, we must now update the information for readers because HSE has released its latest Plan, which will take us through until the summer of 2014. There has also been a change of heart – this would have been the final year of the 3-Year Plan of Work, but the overall Plan will now run for a fourth year, through to 2015. We can probably assume that this will mean a bit more stability in terms of HSE’s focus – had there been an all-new Plan it might have been subject to greater review and change.

So it is that when comparing with the 2012/13 Plan, there is no great change of emphasis or direction, but there are specifics that specialist construction health & safety consultants such as those of McCormack Benson Health & Safety will brief their clients on, and will discuss with them about where to expect Inspectors’ attention in their new target areas.

So here is a quick digest of the latest HSE Construction Safety divisional plan.

New Construction Division Plan of Work 2013/2014

In the broader picture, there is not a great deal of change in their focus.

Around 2 million people work in construction. In 2012/3, 49 construction workers died due to work accidents and incidents, one less than in 2011/12.

In their efforts to reduce these figures further, they are continuing to direct their efforts in this way:

  • small sites
  • asbestos removal work
  • refurbishment sites

This year their release is not specific on their target percentages of visits, but from the language it is clear that they will again disproportionately focus on the smaller builders, refurbishments and asbestos. If your work comes into those categories, then do not be surprised if Inspectors call on your site.

If they do, they will be considering these 5 generic issues in all visits:

  • Work at height
  • Asbestos risks
  • Provision of welfare facilities
  • Good order
  • Respiratory risks

More generally, they will also consider:

  • Leadership
  • Management of health risks
  • Worker Involvement
  • Contractor Competence
  • Temporary Works

Specific Projects focus changes

The main change this year is in the Specific Projects – no less than 5 new categories are going under the HSE microscope –

  • Fragile Roofs
  • Modular Fireplaces
  • Roof Tile Cutting
  • Lifts in Buildings
  • Paving & Blockwork

Only two others are carried over from last year –

  • Temporary Demountable Structures
  • Fire risks in Timber Framed Buildings

What lies behind these new issues? Well, most will not be a surprise – readers of these columns will recall court cases that have included many disastrous falls through fragile roofs, for example. Modular fireplaces are again in the news following the death of a 4-year-old when a fireplace collapsed. Roof tile cutting is often done off site except in gulleys where dust suppression becomes an issue (as it is when cutting paving and blockwork). Recent lift accidents have highlighted the need for installation, maintenance and removal to be properly controlled.

As regards the other two continuing issues, temporary structures for the events and entertainments industry remain a concern: and in terms of fire danger, HSE wants to see that due regard is being paid to UKTFA guidance on timber frame structures.

The Plan goes into more detail about which risks particularly worry HSE, and there will be a focus on the cutting and handling of tiles and blocks –especially in terms of hard-arm vibration and silica dust exposure.
Finally, what HSE calls Enabling Activities include a lot of initiatives that are either ongoing or have not come to fruition in the last 12 months:

Continuing is the Working Well Together (WWT) Campaign to increase awareness of health and safety issues in small construction businesses. Also, continued work with materials supply organisations to see how guidance can be delivered to small sites, and a mention for ways in which information can be made more understandable and accessible to smaller businesses.

A special mention is given to the successful delivery of the Olympics and the drive to see that its legacy is secured in terms of the best practice being extended to building schemes elsewhere.

What CDM Coordinators are probably most anxious to see the details of, but which is still awaited, is the revised regulatory package for the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.