Bad failure rate in building site safety crackdown


As we have previously reported, a 30-day September/October ‘initiative’ was run by HSE Inspectors as part of what they call the Safersites 2014 Campaign. The aim was to target construction sites that fell short in terms of worker safety, and the focus was on health issues.

The headline number that they have now released is that some 40% of the sites they visited had some deficiencies. They are therefore urging managers to raise their health and safety game.

The 1,748 sites they surveyed were mostly ‘repair and refurbishment’ schemes involving smaller contractors (which account for more than 50% of fatal construction accidents). Their key weaknesses were classed as follows:

  • 691 out of 1,748 (40%) had bad standards or exhibited dangerous practices
  • Of these, 360 (21%) sites merited enforcement by inspectors
  • They issued 313 prohibition notices
  • In addition, 235 improvement notices

Height still the biggest risk

 Given the desire to target health problems, the biggest issue identified by far was actually a familiar one of another kind – working at height. The most numerous failings were in connection with –

  1. Work at height/fall risks 42%
  2. Inadequate dust control 12%
  3. Poor staff welfare 12%
  4. Asbestos risks 10%

Other health-related matters that came up were noise, vibration and manual handling. Just over one-third of all recorded problems were health-related.

The disappointing thing is that most of the matters were relatively simple to rectify and they should have been dealt with, given good basic management skills and measures like the issuing and insistence on the use of PPE: and effective dust suppression.

The conclusion of the exercise, according to the Chief of Construction at HSE (Philip White), was:

…whilst the majority of employers in the refurbishment sector are getting it right, a significant part of the industry is seriously failing its workers. The inability to properly plan working at height continues to be a major issue, despite well-known safety measures being straightforward to implement.  It is just not acceptable that Inspectors had to order work to stop immediately on over 200 occasions because of dangerous practices.

HSE is getting active in social media, as you can see in the following  Safersites 2014 Pinterest gallery and their working safely with dust YouTube video.

It is easy to criticise hard-pressed managers and supervisors for their onsite health & safety shortcomings, when they are faced with so many conflicting pressures on a daily basis. At McCormack Benson Health & Safety we understand this, and we know how easy it is to be so close to the job that you cannot step back and see the apparently obvious problems. That is why we make expert construction safety consultants available: people with genuine industry experience who know what the real issues are. They will put forward practical, workable solutions that will in most cases actually make your site more efficient and profitable as well as safer for all concerned.