HSE focuses on Summer Education building safety


It may have escaped the attention of a lot of contractors and construction safety specialists, because the HSE has only sent out a release regionally and just one working day ahead of time, but it is important to note that they are introducing a big ‘safety initiative’ on Monday 29 July in the North West of England, and if you are doing work on schemes involving schools or colleges, you may well be the focus of their attention.  It is also entirely possible that this 2-week campaign will be moved on elsewhere through the Summer holiday season without warning.

Their reasoning is that much educational sector construction work is timetabled for summer months while schools and universities are closed. Inspectors are making unannounced visits to sites to check whether work is being done safely.

What will they be especially looking at?

  • asbestos removal
  • work at height
  • welfare facilities
  • and the general condition of the site

They say that this is linked to the latest figures that “revealed construction workers are nearly four times as likely to be killed at work compared to the average worker”. (In fact the figures have always shown this sort of disparity and we have in these columns reported recently on these new statistics for the last year, which were a cause for modest satisfaction, with reductions in deaths and accidents).

As we know only too well, Inspectors can and sometimes do issue enforcement notices, which either stop work there and then: or insist on improvements being made, if they feel that the worksites is not up to the minimum legal health & safety standards.

And of course they are now armed with the threat of FFI – Fees For Intervention. These can be expensive and if imposed, it is a sign that the Inspectors are seriously concerned about your operation. If you find yourself in this position, make sure that you arm yourself with the services of someone who knows the score and can take your side in any negotiations with the authorities, give you a roadmap of how to get your operation back on track, and proactively help you to get there. Someone like an experienced construction safety consultant from McCormack Benson Health & Safety.

Do not ignore this latest initiative from HSE. Their feeling is that because there will be a lot of refurbishment and new build work going on at schools, university campuses and student accommodation during the long summer break, there is a danger that lives might be at risk if contactors are under time pressure to complete their projects before the autumn term starts. To quote their words:

“Safety has to be the top priority on any construction site and it’s simply not worth taking risks to try and finish jobs early. The death rate for construction workers is four times the national average, and employers should be doing all they can to tackle this issue.”