Health and safety initiative finds 40% of construction sites unsafe

Published:  14 November, 2014

The construction industry is being urged to ensure basic health and safety measures are in place after a month long inspection initiative run by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found 40% of sites failing to properly protect workers.

Unacceptable conditions and dangerous practices were found at nearly half of the 1,748 repair and refurbishment sites visited by HSE inspectors, with one in five sites so poor, formal enforcement action was required. Many of the issues found could have been easily prevented with simple, straightforward management and planning.

The focus of the initiative was on health risks and 35% of the notices served were for issues such as management of asbestos, failure to control exposure to harmful dusts, noise and vibration, and insufficient welfare.

However, failure to provide basic safety measures for people working at height was once again the most common issue found by Inspectors, with 42% of all enforcement notices served for this activity.

HSE’s chief of construction Philip White said: “These results show that while 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.

“We also find health is often overlooked as its implications are not immediately visible, however the effects of uncontrolled exposure to deadly dusts such as asbestos and silica can be irreversible. We urge industry to ensure the most basic of measures such as use of protective equipment and dust suppression methods are put in place to help protect the future health of workers.

“We need to continue to educate industry through initiatives like this and encourage a change in behaviour on small projects where over half the industry’s fatal accidents still occur and many workers become seriously ill.”

For examples of good and bad practice Inspectors found during the campaign visit HSE’s Safersites 2014 Pinterest gallery.

You can also view a set of instructional film clips on working safely with dust on HSE’s Youtube page.